In giving consideration to what might be the form of an appropriate Coat of Arms for an Independent Jamaica, both Government and the Opposition reached agreement in principle that the existing Arms, granted Jamaica since 1661 under Royal Warrant and partially revised in 1957, constituted "a badge of - great historical significance to the nation and should be retained".
The original Arms were designed by William Sancroft, who later became Archbishop of Canterbury, and the use of the Royal
Helmet and Mantlings together is a unique distinction accorded Jamaica. However, the design has also been attributed to William Juxon as he was the then Archbishop of Canterbur
and no Sandcroft as he assumed this position in December 1677.
The anonymous author who is the authority for Sancroft's connection with the affair says "All this as I have heard, was designed by the present Archbishop of Canterbury in the year 1661". This statement was written in 1684 when Sandcroft was the present Archbishop.
It is stated that the original grant of arms was made in February 1662 not 1661. The latter year is an error owing to the change in 1752 from the old style of dating to the new.
The New Year began on March 25 so that what was then 1661 would be 1662 to us.
The original Latin motto, "Indus Uterque Serviet Uni" has been changed to one in English: "Out of Many, One People". The arms show a male and female Taino (Arawak) standing on either side of the shield which bears a red cross with five golden pineapples superimposed on it. The Crest is a Jamaican crocodile surmounting the Royal Helmet and Mantlings.
This is the official description of the Jamaican Coat of Arms as taken from the records of the College of Arms, London:
"For Arms, Argent on a Cross Gules five pine-apples slipped OR: and upon a representation of Our Royal Helmet mantled OR doubled Ermine, for the Crest, On a Wreath Argent and Gules, Upon a Log fesse wise a Crocodile Proper: And for the Supporters, On the dexter side a West Indian Native Woman holding in the exterior hand a Basket of Fruits and on the sinister side a West Indian Native Man supporting by the exterior hand a Bow all proper."
Changes in the Coat of Arms: The Jamaica coat of Arms has seen quite a number of changes, but only three are officially recorded. These changes occurred in 1692, 1957 and 1962 respectively.
The use of the Coat of Arms should not be permitted without official sanction being first obtained from the Prime Minister's Office.
Although the colours of the Supporters are described as all proper, that is, in natural colours, it should be noted that in the approved colour sketch the feathered headdress and feathered skirts are red and white.
The single feather in the female figure's headdress is red, and the headband ermine is winter white. The three tall feathers on the male figure are red, the headband and the shorter feathers alternately red and white, commencing with the red (on the left as seen by the observer) and the ending with a white feather on the right. The waistbands on the feathered skirts of both supporters are red.
The strips of feathers making up the skirts are alternately red and white commencing with the red (on the left as seen by the observer) and ending with outer white feathers on the right.
Key to Heraldic terms
Argent : silver traditionally represented in heraldic design by white Gules : red Slipped : superimposed OR : gold Ermine : white (winter white) Crest : the heraldic device placed above the helmet and separated from it by a wreath Wreath : a twisted band or ribbon of two or more alternate colours on which the crest usually rests Fesse wise : horizontal Supporters : figures which flank and support the shield Dexter : right (left as seen by the observer) Sinister : left (right as seen by the observer) Exterior : outer Proper : all representations of the relevant elements or features are in their natural (that is not heraldic) colours.
The approval of the Cabinet, a select committee known as the National Flower Committee was appointed, initially to make recommendations for the choice of a National Flower. They were later asked to extend their activities to include the choice of a National Tree, a National Fruit and a National Bird.
The Jamaica Horticultural Society had been giving consideration to the choice of a National Flower from 1959. A short list of 14 flowers had previously been prepared and given wide publicity in order to determine public opinion. On the basis of the response the Jamaica Horticultural Society recommended to the National Flower Committee that the flower of the Lignum Vitae be chosen as the National Flower of Jamaica. This suggestion was approved.
The Flower Committee also recommended that the National Tree should be the Blue Mahoe; the National Fruit, the Ackee; the National Bird, the Doctor Bird or Swallow-Tail Humming Bird.
Widespread use of the national symbols - the Flower, Tree, Fruit and Bird - should be encouraged for souvenirs, decoration, planting and design.
Lignum Vitae:: National Flower
Lignum Vitae (Guiacum officinale) is indigenous to Jamaica and was found here by Christopher Columbus. It is thought that the name "Wood of Life" was then adopted because of its medicinal qualities. The tree grows best in the dry woodlands along both the North and South coasts of the island. In addition to shedding an attractive blue flower, the plant itself is extremely ornamental. The wood is used for propeller shaft bearings in nearly all the ships sailing the Seven Seas, and because of these, in shipyears, etc., the Lignum Vitae and Jamaica are closely associated.
The wood is also used in the manufacture of curios, sought after by visitors and nationals alike. There is also a thriving export trade.
Blue Mahoe :: National Tree
Blue Mahoe ( Hibiscus Elatus)
This has been regarded as one of our primary economic timbers. It is currently much used for reafforestation and is a valuable source of cabinet timber. Of an attractive blue-green colour with variegated yellow instrusions, it is capable of taking a high polish showing to advantage the variety of grain and colour tones. The trade, local and foreign, consumes annually many thousands of feet of this beautiful timber.
Ackee :: National Fruit
Ackee ( Blighia Sapida)
It was originally imported from West Africa, probably brought here in a slave ship, and now grows luxuriously producing each year large quantities of edible fruit.
The tree was unknown to science until plants were taken from Jamaica to England in 1793 by Capt.
William Bligh of "Mutiny on the Bounty" fame, hence the botanical name "Blighia sapida" in honour of the notorious Sea-Captain. One of the earliest local propagators of the tree was Dr. Thomas Clarke who introduced it to the Eastern parishes in 1778.
Jamaica is the only place where the fruit is generally recognised as an edible crop, although the plant has been introduced into most of the other Caribbean islands (Trinidad, Grenada, Antigua, Barbados), Central America and even Florida where it is known by different names and does not thrive in economic quantities.
Ackee, formerly introduced from West Africa in 1778 when some plants were purchased from the Captain of a slave ship.
Ackee is derived from the original name "Ankye" which comes from TWI language of Ghana.
Doctor Bird :: National Bird
Doctor Bird ( Trochilus Polytmus)
The "Doctor Bird" or Swallowtail Humming Bird lives only in Jamaica and is one of the most outstanding of the 320 species of Humming Birds. It is well to note that the beautiful feathers of these birds have no counterpart in the entire bird population and produce iridescent colours, characteristics only of that family. The Doctor Bird has been immortalised for many decades in Jamaica folk lore and song.