There's one place in Britain where the combination of green, white
and a dash of black has always provoked strong passions - Glasgow.
They are the colours of the city's Celtic football club, which together
with Rangers FC make up the bitterest rivalry in British sport.
But now, almost at entirely the opposite end of the country, that
same palette is fuelling a clash with echoes of Scotland's legendary
Old Firm rivalry.
in Devon, the zephyrs that blow off the Atlantic have this summer
given flutter to a previously unseen spectacle: a flag of green, white
It is the flag of Devon.
nothing ancient about the design - a white cross with black outline
on a green background - or how it was selected, by voting on the internet.
But in a short time the flag has started to take root.
the flag in Northam, Devon
Tourism chiefs have seized on it as a clever marketing ploy; the image
now sits permanently on this website; and one of Britain's leading
flag makers has reported unprecedented interest.
"In a few months it has achieved the sort of popularity that takes
years or decades for most regional flags," says Charles Ashburner,
But travel west, across the Tamar river that divides Devon from our
neighbour Cornwall, and not everyone is so happy.
Where Devon's flag was knocked up in 10 minutes by a student on his
home computer, Cornwall's - a white cross on a black background -
has been around for 1,000 years.
That flag has become a rallying emblem for Cornish independence and
embodies the ancient Celtic heritage that nationalists believe distinguishes
them from Englanders.
really grates with the Cornish patriots is how ardent Devonians are
using their new flag to stake out their own claims of a recent Celtic
NEW DEVON FLAG
by Devon student Ryan Sealey and beat others in our internet
Widespread use will gain it 'official' status
expected to be recognised by the Flag Institute
They even want to name the flag after St Petroc, a Celtic saint better
known for his Cornish connections.
The issue has provoked heated exchanges on internet chat sites, with
the Cornish accusing their neighbours of hi-jacking their identity
and Devonians hitting back, claiming sour grapes.
Leading Cornish nationalist John Angarrack refused to talk to the
BBC, but forwarded his views from a recent e-mail exchange. "Promote
Devon all you want, but do not denude Cornish distinctiveness in the
process," Mr Angarrack tells his adversary.
"Devon is a county of England despite any dodgy marketing ploy like
the Devonshire flag. Reject this nonsense but cherish and defend the
beating heart of Cornish culture."
The idea for a Devon flag seeded itself last year after an article
appeared on BBC Devon's website vigorously reasserting the county's
Convention has it that the Celts were forced out of Devon, and into
Cornwall by the Anglo Saxons, rendering the county as English as Surrey
or Kent. But there is a growing feeling in the South West that Celtic
influence was not expunged and is greater than traditionally thought.
Devonian Paul Turner, who runs a "Celtic Devon" website, believes
the bust up is down to the Cornish "feeling threatened" by Devon's
new Celtic pride.
"They are being unreasonable, saying we cannot feel the way we do
and they don't have a right to tell us that," says Mr Turner.
Bob Burns, another champion of the new flag, accuses the Cornish of
"distorting history" in a bid to carve out a separate identity from
The Cornish call this "Devonwall" politics - an attempt by Devon to
hi-jack Cornish identity. "People are quite aware in Devon that the
Cornish make political capital by claiming to be different," says
Dr Mark Stoyle, a Devon historian. "Besides, it's fashionable to be
A backlash against city-dwellers settling in the South West has also
led to this new-found Devonian identity, he suggests.
The row has even spilled over into academia, with Cornwall's leading
historical scholar, Prof Philip Payton, accusing Devon of "wanting
to invent traditions".
"The idea of naming the flag after St Petroc is gratuitously offensive,"
says Prof Payton. "Most people here will treat it with mild disdain."
But they'd better get used to it. A Devon company, Jetz Novelties,
has just signed an order to make 20,000 hand-held Devon flags, and
has plans for flag-emblazoned baseball caps and cuddly bears.
Boss Richard May is determined to make the flag a success. "I won't
be happy," he says, "until every sandcastle in Devon has one of those
flags on top."
And neither will we.
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article was first published in BBC Online's MAGAZINE