A recent tabloid press article referred to a questionable claim by a church cleric that the Dragon is a sign of evil and paganism, and that Wales should change its flag accordingly.
Ha ha ha. Hang on, let me just pick myself up off the floor.
The Dragon flown in Wales today has a long and interesting history it has absolutely nothing to do with evil and paganism as so randomly suggested by the Rev George Hargreaves, whose credit to the present day church is we would suggest very questionable.
It is important to remember that the Dragon symbol originally came to Europe after the defeat by the Emperor Trojan of the invading forces on the eastern frontier of the then Roman Empire.
Having captured the five toed Chinese dragon the symbol of the invading force, Trojan initiated that while the Eagle was still to be the symbol of the legion, the dragon would for the whole empire be the symbol of the Cohort – and in this case a four toed dragon.
When Attila the Hun – rode rough shod in the fifth century throughout Roman Europe, the remaining regions including the Byzantine European based on Constantinople and the island of Britain, survived not only as Christian domains but as Christian domains with dragon symbols.
There was also a time when the red dragon was flown in what is now Turkey, as well as in our own Britain. When the two symbols of the Byzantine Empire fell to the Turks in the 15th Century, the Turks kept the crescent and discarded the dragon leaving only Celtic Britain with the Red Dragon as their national symbol.
There was of course the white dragon of the Saxons – last seen on the Bayeux tapestry falling with King Harold and the basis of Celtic fables of old and the stories of the Battles between the red dragon and the white dragon.
It so happens that the Red Dragon is one of the last remaining symbols of the ancient Christian Church and when it refers to Celtic countries, it is used on a basis of being treasured and promoted.
When St Augustine brought Christianity to England, Christianity was already in Wales under the symbol of the red dragon and to suggest the dragon represents anything verging on evil is incorrect, sensationalist and wrong.
Have a rethink (or a lie down) Rev Hargreaves.
Red Dragon Flagmakers literally ‘fly the flag’ for Wales
Their hand finished traditional sewn flags are never more evident than on St David’s Day as Welsh flags adorn buildings around the globe.
But last week the Swansea based social enterprise landed one of their largest and most unusual orders to date – a 10 metre by 8 metre Welsh Dragon flag for a car.
It was a very special car – and a very special occasion. The huge flag was used to wrap and conceal Aston Martin’s new DBX prototype vehicle outside the Welsh Government’s Cathays Park headquarters in Cardiff.
First Minister Carwyn Jones and Aston Martin CEO Dr Andrew Palmer unveiled the vehicle following the announcement that the iconic British car maker is to open a manufacturing facility in St Athan creating more than 750 highly-skilled jobs.
Jo Ashburner Farr, boss at Red Dragon Flagmakers said it was a hugely proud moment for her and the team – and also one of their most challenging.
She said: “We were asked by the Welsh Government if we could make a huge flag to cover something - but weren’t told what it was because it was top secret. It also had to be a sewn flag rather than printed as the highest quality possible was required. When we saw the images of the unveiling we were really excited and delighted to have been a part of something so special for Wales.
“It has to have been one of the largest flags we have been asked to make – it took four people three days and two nights working flat out to complete. The weight of the material meant three people had to work together to get it through the sewing machines – it was definitely a challenge – but we pride ourselves on our ‘can do’ attitude.”
“We're so pleased to have been a (small) part of this great event. Bringing manufacturing back to Wales is a subject very close to our hearts here at Red Dragon Flagmakers and as a social enterprise we do everything we can to nurture the skills for sustainable long term employment in our local community.”
First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “I’d like to thank Red Dragon Flagmakers as they were given a very tight deadline and came up with the goods on time and made a great job. It was a memorable moment when the announcement was made and the car, which was wrapped in a distinctive Welsh Red Dragon flag, was unveiled.”
It is hard to believe that 20 years ago British Airways had a large number of the tail fins on their international aircraft painted with Jungle scenes.
BA had not taken into account that their customers wanted to fly British with the result that the Jungle mixture proved unpopular with the travelling public, a matter made worse by the fact that Virgin Atlantic had chosen the Union flag as their basic design. Virgin had become more British than the national carrier.
With history of nearly 50 years as a flag man it is interesting to look back at some of the more interesting projects I have been asked to undertake over the years.
Robin Ashburner, President elect of Red Dragon Flagmakers and flagmaker / vexillologist for 50 years remembers.
Montgomeryshire was one of the very first UK counties to adopt an official flag to represent their region - sadly forgotten by the Flag Institute which does not list it in its directory (as of today).
Montgomeryshire, also known as Maldwyn (Welsh: Sir Drefaldwyn meaning "the Shire of Baldwin's town") is one of thirteen historic counties and a former administrative county of Wales. It is named after its county town, Montgomery, which in turn is named after one of William the Conqueror's main counsellors, Roger de Montgomerie, who was the 1st Earl of Shrewsbury.
Montgomeryshire today constitutes the northern part of the principal area of Powys. Here's one we made earlier!
We recently sent out an email to our established customer list and leads, asking people if their own customers could see them?
It went like this:
Can your customers see you?
Like every business, this social enterprise must grow to survive in the tough world of commerce. Rather than bombard you with tech-speak, we'll get straight to the point and ask whether you would be able to have a link put on your website to ours.
Increased awareness of our brand, our mission and the products we make through search engine optimisation on the web will be a game changer. We'll do the same for you. And to say thank you, send you a 30% discount code for the next quality SEWN or PRINTED flag or banner order you place with us.
Oh and tell everyone about your business and the support you've given us. No catch. Just a huge thank you for supporting social enterprise.
The response has been fantastic and first up we'd like to thank Fairwood Park Gold Club on the Gower in Swansea for setting up a link on their webpage and ordering a club flag within a day of our post.
We love working with businesses who want the same things as we do, very reassuring - thanks Fairwood.
At a glittering awards ceremony at the Cardiff Millennium Stadium on Thursday 12th November 2015, Jo Ashburner Farr – CEO of social enterprise Red Dragon Manufacturing Ltd in Swansea was awarded the coveted title of Entrepreneur of the Year (Manufacturing) 2015.
The awards were organised by the Great British Entrepreneur Awards and Fresh Business Thinking, acknowledging the hard work and inspiring stories of Welsh entrepreneurs and business in Wales.
Jo says ‘….really this is a huge achievement for our micro business. It recognises manufacturing as a viable business model as a whole but the fact that Red Dragon is a social enterprise makes winning even more special. This award was awarded to me (and by definition to the Red Dragon team) over and above larger, more established and non-social profit companies - so for the manufacturing sector as a whole and specifically for the social profit ethos this is great news.
Red Dragon rehabilitates people in the Welsh community through training in practical skills and the medium of traditional sewn flag making. The company has never been grant dependent but relies solely on revenue generated from sales to support the employment of its growing workforce. The company is one of the few companies remaining in the UK who make this quality product and was official supplier to the NATO Summit Wales in 2014. The business recently invested funding received from Finance Wales and the WCVA in state of the art digital textile sublimation technology and supplies b2b and b2c worldwide through online sales and referrals.
Christine Watson MBE, Managing Director of Discovery at Swansea University and Trustee Director of Red Dragon says ‘it is reassuring that the business community, our peers and our customers have embraced what we do with belief in our mission and soul of our products. Jo consistently pushes boundaries to benefit the growth and credibility of the business and manufacturing in Wales and the UK as a sustainable business model’.
Jo says ‘Winning this award over very many other worthy candidates supports my ambition to achieve positive outcomes and sustainable long term employment for a skilled workforce and manufacturing as whole in the UK.
The flagpole on the tower of Swansea’s St Mary’s Church is back up and running, following an Evening Post appeal.
Less than a week after publishing the church’s call for help to get the flagpole fixed ahead of Remembrance Day, willing volunteers had offered to do the job for free. Uplands-based business Red Dragon Flagmakers saved the day, and the diocesan flag is flying once more.
Rector of St Mary’s, the Reverend Simon Griffiths said: “The flag hadn’t flown from the flagpole for many years. "It’s a thank you to our volunteer steward Darren Jones, to the Evening Post, and in particular to Red Dragon Flagmakers. "The diocesan flag is now proudly flying from the top of St Mary’s once again. It’s quite emotional for us, because it has been a problem for so long.”
Stewart Ashburner Farr of Red Dragon Flagmakers, came across the appeal through the Evening Post, and called in the help of friends Tim and Keith Jones. The desire to repair the flagpole before remembrance events struck a chord with him, because of his wife Jo’s rich family history in the military. He said he was compelled to help for free to support Swansea’s civic church.
“It’s a major church in the city that needed some support and we had the expertise, so were able to come to its assistance,” he said.
Volunteer steward at St Mary’s, Darren Jones, who launched the appeal for a flagpole fix in the first place, added: “It shows the compassion of people to give up their free time for a cause that is going to remember the people that give their lives for us.”
The Reverend Griffiths said that following on from a recent theft at St Mary’s, a gesture such as this shows that good can outweigh the bad in society.
The shortlist for the Social Enterprise Awards Wales 2015 has been announced and amongst the 13 named finalists from across Wales, Swansea based Red Dragon Manufacturing Ltd (Red Dragon FlagmakersTM) have been shortlisted in recognition of their excellence amongst the social business sector in Wales.
The ‘One to Watch’ category recognises outstanding social businesses that have been established less than two years. As a finalist in this category Red Dragon Manufacturing Ltd was incorporated as a registered social profit company in January 2014 and borne out of a family flag manufacturing business started in the late 1960s by the current CEO’s father Robin Ashburner.
Glenn Bowen, Director of Enterprise at the Wales Co-operative Centre, who will chair the judging panel, commented: “Now in their fifth year, the Social Enterprise Awards Wales have become known as the leading awards scheme for the sector. The standard of entries from across Wales has been very high, illustrating that our social businesses are making an important contribution to the Welsh economy whilst delivering significant social and environmental benefits. These Awards will ensure they gain the recognition they deserve!”
Jo Ashburner, CEO and co-founder of Red Dragon Manufacturing Ltd says ‘….really this is a huge achievement for our micro business. We set out to rehabilitate people in the Welsh community through training in practical skills and the medium of traditional sewn flag making – we are one of the few companies remaining in the UK who make this quality product and we’re thrilled that the business community and our customers have embraced what we do with belief in our mission and soul of our products. Being shortlisted for this award over many very worthy nominations supports our ambition for positive outcomes and sustainable long term employment for our staff. With this recognition we will strive to set an example and expand the business through diversification and collaboration with other businesses who proactively want to make a real difference on a social basis.’
Organised by the Wales Co-operative Centre, the Awards are mainly funded by the ERDF and Welsh Government and this year, the Award Categories have been sponsored by BIC Innovation, Landsker Business Solutions, Legal & General and NatWest, with additional support from Charity Bank and Big Ideas Wales.
The Awards will be presented on Tuesday 29 September at a lunchtime ceremony held at the Wales Millennium Centre.
Sir Tom Jones. Is there absolutely anything more knee trembling, Welsh and totally awesome as the legend who epitomises, encapsulates and encompasses the very essence of the green green grass of home. Sigh.
Yes, there’s a strong chance Sir Tom is a god, but then he’s Welsh, as am I and we’re both enigmas to those who are not born and bred.
Last weekend five friends and I hot footed it to the London Hilton and Greenwich Music Time for my hen weekend. We were warned of biblical rain storms, cancelled trains and a postponed concert. Sir Tom has been cancelling concerts because of a respiratory infection and the odds were against us pulling it off.
But the rain held off, we drank 42% proof Da Mhile Welsh seaweed gin (Supreme Champion at this year’s Royal Welsh Show) and Sir Tom was jaw droppingly brilliant. My English and Dutch friends are now Sir Tom converts and in awe and envious of the rush of goosebumps raised by the crowd’s chorus of Delilah and the ‘by 'ere, by year, by ear’ lesson Sir Tom shared with them.
The Welsh Flag was absolutely everywhere. Not just a few flags, oceans of flags and they fluttered and flew while Sir Tom sang and all was well and wonderful with the world. I proudly draped my flag over my shoulders, fetchingly matched with the t-shirts I had designed for the occasion, the glory pants we produce here at RDM and the twinkly tiara and pink satin sash saying 'Jo 4 Tom forever’ and everyone smiled and cheered and congratulated. Everyone smiled because they felt the love.
The fierce pride and love of the Welsh, the love for the flag and the love for Sir Tom.