Conveyed by royal warrant, the Barbados coat of arms was presented to the President of the Senate by her Majesty the Queen. The Queen presented the coat of arms during a Royal Visit to the island on the 14th of February, 1966. This was the same year Barbados gained Independence from Britain.
The Barbados coat of arms is a symbol of strength, pride and integrity. Designed by Mr. Neville C. Connell in 1966, it tells the story of this small Caribbean nation from its inception as an English colony, to the struggle towards emancipation, freedom and independence.
Mr. Connell was educated at the renowned Harrison College before moving to Cambridge where he continued his studies at Fitzwilliam College.
Called to the Bar at Grey’s Inn, Mr. Connell later served in the Royal Artillery at the outbreak of the world war.
Mr. Connell later returned to his native home where he acted as director of the Barbados Museum for more than 23 years.
Mr. Connell dedicated his life to the preservation of Barbados’ history. The coat of arms – a lasting symbol of the nation – has become his legacy.
At the base of this armorial ensign lies a scroll which carries the motto “Pride and Industry“. These words have endured in the hearts and hands of all Barbadians. During festivals and events you will still see banners proudly displaying these words today.
Rising above the scroll, is a golden shield carrying images of the Bearded Fig Tree and two Pride of Barbados flowers.
The Bearded Fig (Ficus Citrifolia) has a long history in Barbados. It is said that when the Portuguese first landed on the island, they named it “Los Barbados” after these magnificent trees that were once in abundance across the island.
The Bearded Figs grow to approximately 50 feet tall and covers a wide expanse due to the areal roots dropping down from the branches overhead.
The areal roots, when young, give the appearance of a bearded tree. In Portuguese, beard is called “barbados”. The roots eventually fuse with the parent tree forming a maze of intricately woven trunks.
The Pride of Barbados appears in the upper right and left hand corners of the shield and is the national flower of the island.
Emblematic of the nation is the red variety with yellow margin along the crinkled edges of the petals. The scientific name for the Pride of Barbados is Caesalpinia pulcherrima, a fitting tribute to this delicate yet vibrant flower as the word “pulcherrima” means “very pretty“.
Growing to a height of up to 20 feet, the Pride of Barbados is still a common sight on the island. Its blooms are present all year round in a glorious array of reds and yellows.
The shield is supported by a pelican on the left side and a dolphin fish on the right.
The dolphin fish is symbolic of the once thriving fishing industry which remains a significant source of income for many Barbadians.
The brown pelican – the national bird of Barbados – is said to symbolize Pelican Island. In 1961, Pelican Island was fused to the mainland during the construction of the Deep Water Harbour.
Pelican Island was named after the brown pelican which once thrived there in abundance. With the Harbour development, the pelicans soon took flight. Today a pelican spotting makes national headlines. In 2006, a young boy mischievously threw a stone at one of the rarely spotted birds. The pelican’s wing was damaged and the bird soon died to the dismay of the nation.
Mounting the shield is a helmet and mantling from which a wreath stretches out, embracing Barbados’ national treasures.
Following tradition, the wreath and mantling are emblazoned with the chief colours displayed on the shield; red and gold.
Jutting up from the helmet is a Barbadian fist strong and proud. The fist clutches 2 pieces of sugar cane arranged in an X.
Sugar cane was once the dominant industry on the island. A symbol of power and prosperity to the colonial masters, it is also emblematic of the slavery and suppression typical of the pre-emancipation period.
The sticks of cane form what is known as the saltire cross or the “St. Andrew’s Cross“. Andrew the apostle is said to have been martyred on this infamous cross. Seeing himself unworthy of being crucified on the same type of cross as Jesus Christ, the apostle requested an X-shaped structure instead.
The relevance of this ancient symbol is not lost on the history of Barbados.
Not only was Andrew a fisherman by trade – like so many Barbadians – but he also appears in Christ’s foretelling of the destruction of the Temple which could be interpreted as symbolic of the destruction of the colonialist grip on the island and their inhabitants.
With Independence came freedom but likewise the fears of many that hard times would follow. Many expected ‘labour pains’ brought on by a new beginning heralded by the island’s new found sovereignty and independence.
Perhaps the late Collin was pointing to the need to persevere and have faith in God when faced with “false messiahs” or “prophets” in the guise of benevolent leaders as the nation struggled to find its own identity.
For more information about the Barbados Coat of Arms please visit Wikipedia.
Author: Brett Callaghan