Old Andrean Fred Brownell’s design of the new national flag was celebrated in the Saint Andrew‘s School Chapel on Friday morning with a service that commemorated 25 years of democracy and of the national flag.
The service included the singing of the national anthem before the School Chaplain, Father Deon Lombard, shared a sermon which included the story of how the flag of the democratic South Africa came into being. Interestingly, it had a lot to do with the School Chaplain of Saint Andrew’s. After the service, boys in grades one and two gathered to watch the Head Boy, Thami Mdubeki, and Deputy Head Boy, Bradley Smith, raise the national flag outside the Chapel while their matric classmates sang “I vow to thee my country”.
So, how did the School Chaplain influence the design of the national flag? Ahead of the first democratic elections in 1994, the public was asked to submit their ideas for a new flag. When no suitable design was received, Fred Brownell, who was the State Herald of South Africa from 1982 to 2002, was phoned while he attended a conference in Zurich.
He doodled some designs on his note pad and came up with the “Y” design that has become so familiar, based on something he had seen in the Saint Andrew’s School Chaplain’s chasuble. Brownell’s first idea included a traditional cross, but he then morphed it into a “Y”; when the Chaplain raised his arms, the chasuble, when viewed from the back, presented as a cross, but when he lowered his arms it changed to a “Y”. Included in the “Y” design was a yellow “V”, which Brownell, who was born in Bethlehem, said represented the “Vrystaat” His role in the design of the new flag was recognised by President Nelson Mandela, who presented Brownell with the Order for Meritorious Service in 1999.
Brownell is the only two-time winner of the Vexillon award, which has been presented every second year since 1989, based on the two years preceding an International Congress of Vexillology. Vexillology is the study of the history, symbolism and usage of flags.