National Symbols

Official and otherwise

If love is blind, patriotism has lost all five senses.
William Blum

A collection of the National Symbols of St Helena; official and otherwise…

This page is in indexes: Island Detail

National Symbols Saint Helena Island Info

Below: How does something become a National Symbol?The current setRead More

How does something become a National Symbol?

Naturally, some National Symbols are formally and officially declared; flags being the most obvious examples. Others get that status by popular acclaim. As can be seen from the list below, only two of our National Symbols are formally registered as such. In only one of the other cases the status was awarded after some sort of process; for the rest they ‘just are’!

To be one of our National Symbols the object in question needs to be associated with St Helena, and only with St Helena. So while tuna fish are an important part of the island’s life (comprising one our main foodstuffs), they could not be considered a National Symbol. For the same reason, neither could donkeys.

A National Symbol must also command widespreas acceptance as such. So although it has been suggested that the Spiky Yellow Woodlouse be declared our ‘National Invertebrate’, it seems highly unlikely that the majority of the population (who never have, and are never likely to see one) would agree, or even care.

One might imagine that an easy way to idetify a place’s National Symbols would be to examine its coins and/or banknotes, but that doesn’t seem to work here. Our coins feature a tuna fish; a donkey; Jonathan the tortoise; dolphins; an Ebony; a turtle; a Sooty Tern; and our Coat of Arms. Only two of these - the Coat of Arms and the Ebony - are actually a National Symbol, though it could be argued that Jonathan also almost qualifies.

The current set

Below: Our FlagOur Coat of ArmsOur National BirdOur National FlowerOur National Song

The following are formally declared National Symbols of St Helena.

Our Flag

St Helena flag Saint Helena Island Info National Symbols

Our flag was Commissioned by Governor Massingham in 1983, as one of the initiatives to mark the 150th Anniversary of St Helena becoming a Crown Colony. It was granted by Royal Warrant, published in the St Helena Government Gazette on 30th January 1984.

Read more about our flag.

Our Coat of Arms

St Helena Coat of Arms Saint Helena Island Info National Symbols

The Coat of Arms was designed by the Garter King of Arms in London in consultation with the Governor and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office during 1982/83. On 30th January 1984, Her Majesty The Queen commanded that the Coat of Arms be registered at the College of Arms for exclusive and sole use on St Helena. This was published in Gazette No 2 of 31st January 1984.

Read more about our Coat of Arms.

The following are not formally declared, but would be widely considered by the population as National Symbols of St Helena.

Our National Bird

Wirebird Melliss 1875 Saint Helena Island Info National Symbols
Wirebird, Melliss, 1875{a}

Nobody would dispute that our National Bird is The Wirebird. It even appears on our flag! And it is the island’s only surviving Endemic bird which should also accord it special status.

Read more about The Wirebird.

Our National Flower

The Ebony Saint Helena Island Info National Symbols

Our national flower is the St Helena Ebonytrochetiopsis ebenus. It was approved as the national flower by majority vote of the people of St Helena in 2011, getting 87% of the votes. It replaced the Arum Lilyzantedeschia aethiopica.

Read more about The Ebony.

Our National Song

My St Helena Island Saint Helena Island Info National Symbols

Although our official Anthem is ‘God Save the Queen’, nobody (not even the Wikipedia) would dispute that our National Song is ‘My St Helena Island’ - even though the song was actually written and recorded by an American who’d never even been to St Helena!

Read more about ‘My St Helena Island’.

Read More

More stories on our page Read articles about St Helena.

Article: National Flower, National Bird, National…

By Vince Thompson, published in the St Helena Independent 21st February 2014{1}

Last time I mentioned this subject the verdict was that a decision on whether or not to change the national flower from the Arum Lily to the Ebony would be made at Legislative Council after the Wirebird census had been completed and the DAPM team from DfID had been and gone. Well, the census is finished and the result has been published. The DAPM team has gone and their verdict on progress or otherwise as we continue the onward march to a bright new airport-based future has been fully discussed.

We have also had a Legislative Council meeting; a particularly boring one I thought and still no mention of the outcome of the Arum versus Ebony debate.

I managed to get into a discussion with Eddie Duff this week and asked him what the hold-up was. My question gave Eddie the opportunity to tell me, at length, all about the hours of talking that goes on in council meetings but that decisions are very rare events. When we finally got around to what the national flower may or may not be he said there was some argument about this. It seems that if there are some people who still raise objections even after the majority have stated their opinion one way or another, it is taken as an excuse to delay things. This may be one of the main reasons why Eddie grumbles about all the talk and no action. Sorry, but if the majority are in favour of a particular course of action then that is a good basis, but not the only basis, for coming to a decision. There will always be some who do not like a decision but that is not a reason for not making a decision.

After talking about all of that Eddie stated with enthusiasm that he also wanted to see adopted a national tree, [the gumwood], a national fish [deep water jack] a national invertebrate [spiky yellow woodlouse] and, for good measure a national sea slug [don’t know its name but its endemic] and a national crab [again, don’t know its name but it’s named after Basil George and it’s endemic].

On the basis of current progress I think Eddie will need to be a councillor for twenty more years after this current term finishes. I don’t think there is much chance of getting more than one national emblem adopted during the course of a single four year term.

Eddie was confident we do have a national bird, the Wirebird. I’m not sure it’s officially adopted, maybe it is. It does appear on official badges and things like that. If it’s not officially adopted it should be. After all, there really is no choice; it’s the only endemic bird that survived the ravages of human habitation. It would be a nonsense, wouldn’t it, to adopt the Java Sparrow or the Madagascar Fody [Cardinal].

Closing Humour Saint Helena Island Info National Symbols

Laugh at funny National Symbols humour LOL Saint Helena Island Info


{a} From ‘St Helena: A Physical, Historical and Topographical Description of the Island, including the Geology, Fauna, Flora and Meteorology’, by John Melliss, published in 1875.


{1} Reproduced for educational non-commercial use only; all copyrights are acknowledged.


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