Last modified: 2011-06-10 by jonathan dixon
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by Ralph Kelly, 29 Feb 2008
Carol Foley in The Australian Flag deals with the Australasian Anti-Transportation League, and its flag, on pages 38-39. The name refers to their purpose of ending transportation of criminals to their parts. The leagues was formed in 1851 by federating several local societies in all antipodean colonies excpet Western Australia, which still depended on transported convicts for labor. In 1853 transportation to the other colonies was ended, and the league disbanded.
John Ayer, 1,2 November 2000
In October, I came across an image at the Australian archives of the flag of the Australasian League, dated 1851. It shows the Southern Cros on a British blue ensign. It is shown on a discolored fabric. Whether the flag was mounted on this for exhibit purposes or as a border to the flag, I don't know. Above the flag it reads "Australasian League", to the right on the fly side "Tasmania". The lower portion, however, is illegible to me.
Phil Nelson, 28 Jan 2000
If the image is of the same as previously published in Frank Cayley's "Flag of Stars", then the white border on three sides of the flag is part of the original design. The text reads "AUSTRALASIAN LEAGUE." on top edge, "TASMANIA" on fly edge and "INSTITUTED 1851." on the bottom edge (but lettering is mirror reversed).
Ralph Kelly, 29 Jan 2000
The flag was unfurled by the Tasmanian delegation at the inter- colonial conference held in Melbourne in February 1851. There were two large flags made - one made in Launceston and given to the Victorian branch in February 1851, and another copy made in Melbourne about two weeks later and given to the the Tasmanian branch. The surviving flag in the Launceston museum appears to be the second flag. Frank Cayley [cay66] also refers to two flags used on the ships carrying the delegates from Tasmania to Melbourne, and on their return. It is unclear as to whether these were the two large flags (the flags exchanged by the delegates), or two smaller flags and there is no information as to their size and any inscription or the manner in which they were used onboard the ships.
On the surviving example of the flag, the words "INSTITUTED 1851." on the bottom edge were printed in mirror reverse
on the Launceston example of the flag. The flag was made of silk and
presumably the lettering was applied (wrongly) by a stencil -
inadvertently creating the mirror image. The other words appear
correctly. The other examples of the flag may have had a
different colony name (see below), but they would still have been instituted in
1851 and it is unlikely that the mirror writing was intentional, or
the same error would have been made on other flags.
Ralph Kelly, 28,29 February, 1 March 2008
image by Jaume Ollé
From Flags of Australia [vau83]:
The League was formed in 1851 to campaign against the continuance of convict transportation to Australia and New Zealand. The flag of the League featured a gold Southern Cross on a Blue Ensign. A white border usually featured the League's name, year of institution and identified the colony in which it was flown. The five stars of the Southern Cross were said to represent the colonial settlements in Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and New Zealand. The League's flag strongly resembles the Australian National Flag and its influence can be seen in the design of the flag of Victoria.contributed by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 14 Sep 2001
I don't believe that John Vaughan had any knowledge of use of the use of the flag other than what is contained in Cayley's Flag of Stars [cay66]. Vaughan's statement that the lettering differed by state is only inferred from the use of the word "Tasmania" whilst there were branches in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide. It is unknown whether the word "Victoria" appeared on the flag unfurled at the February 1851 meeting.
No delegates from Sydney or Adelaide attended the Melbourne meeting - there is no knowledge of them acquiring a flag. Cayley's text suggests that two flags were made, of which one has survived and of the other, there is no record.
It is possible that other flags were made for the League for use in the other colonies, Tasmania and Victoria. However, no flags other than the one in Launceston have survived and no archival source have been found to date. Cayley does not give any sources for any part of his book, but it appears the text about the Anti-transportation League flag has come from contemporary newspaper accounts.
Vaughan's illustration was the first known example of a drawing of the flag (which had only
appeared as a photograph in Cayley's book of 1966) and it was
modified from the Launceston example to "improve" its appearance -
using larger stars and moving them fully into the fly.
Ralph Kelly, 28,29 February, 1 March 2008