When visiting golf clubs up and down the country it is often noticeable that flags are flying at ‘half-mast’, usually in memory of a deceased member. However, did you know that there is a right way to fly a flag at ‘half-mast’ and it is not to fly the flag at half-mast! Half-mast means the flag is flown two-thirds of the way up the flagpole, with at least the height of the flag between the top of the flag and the top of the flagpole. Flags should not be flown at half-mast on poles that are more than 45° from the vertical, but a mourning cravat can be used instead. This is an alternative mark of mourning, used when half-masting is unsuitable, which is to add a black cravat or ribbon to the top of the flag, at the hoist. When a flag is to be flown at half-mast, it should first be raised all the way to the top of the mast, allowed to remain there for a second and then be lowered to the half-mast position. When it is being lowered from half-mast, it should again be raised to the top of the mast for a second before being fully lowered. When a British national flag (i.e. the Union Flag and the flags of England, Scotland and Wales) is at half-mast, other flags on the same stand of poles should also be at half-mast or should not be flown at all. Flags of foreign nations should not be flown unless their country is also observing mourning. The Royal Standard never flies at half-mast. It represents the Monarchy, which is continuous, and it would, therefore, be inappropriate for it to fly at half-mast. If flying a national flag, then they may be flown on every day of the year. Government and local authority buildings in England, Scotland and Wales are encouraged to fly national flags every day of the year (the flying of flags at certain locations in Northern Ireland is constrained by The Flags Regulations [Northern Ireland] 2000 and Police Emblems and Flag Regulations [Northern Ireland] 2002)). Flags are normally flown from sunrise to sunset, but they may also be flown at night when they should be illuminated. No permission is needed to fly the national flags and they are excluded from most planning and advertising regulations (but flagpoles may not be). National flags should never be flown in a worn or damaged condition, or when soiled. To do so is to show disrespect for the nations they represent. The Union Flag, has a correct way up – in the half of the flag nearest the flagpole, the wider diagonal white stripe must be above the red diagonal stripe. The reason for this is that Scotland’s St Andrew’s Cross takes precedence over Ireland’s St. Patrick’s Cross! It is, therefore, most improper to fly the flag upside down! For more ‘fun with flags’, you can visit the Flag Institute where there is a wealth of information on flag etiquette.
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