Malmö RK and all its Colours

Art work by Mrs B.

9 April 2016

Louis Petrin, HTBS contributor Down Under, was quick to turn around a piece about HTBS editor Göran R Buckhorn’s article about his Swedish rowing club’s boating jacket, which Göran wrote about on Thursday. Louis writes:

Let me start by saying, Göran, that you should be on the cover of GQ magazine with your new Malmö RK blazer! Or even better, maybe Row 360.

Now, I hate to rain on your parade, but as someone interested in rowing history and being a pedant, I have some questions about your blazer being adorned with a badge on the pocket.


Firstly, the badge shows a blue and white chequered flag. However, if one goes to the Malmö RK website it shows a yellow and black, crowned Gryphon.

MRB bannerTake a look on the following websites:    or

The griffin, griffon, or gryphon is a legendary creature with the body, tail, and back legs of a lion; the head and wings of an eagle; and an eagle’s talons as its front feet. Because the lion was traditionally considered the king of the beasts and the eagle the king of birds, the griffin was thought to be an especially powerful and majestic creature. The griffin was also thought of as king of all creatures.

There is an amazing amount of jargon attributed to heraldry, as well as a multitude of rules on what can and cannot be shown or done. In heraldry, the griffin indicates a combination of intelligence and strength.

A Gryphon proper [or its colour] would be a gold Gryphon, so the above Malmö RK have used reversed colour.

As we cannot see claws, it is not rampant so I assume it is either sitting, or sajent, or lying down on all fours with an erect head, couchant. A couchant Gryphon is portrayed on the seal of Richard de Redvers, Earl of Exeter, and dated back to 1162 is the earliest example of the Gryphon’s use as a charge or at least a symbol.

It is also dexter, Latin for ‘right’ which means to the right from the viewpoint of the bearer of the shield.

This logo seems not too dissimilar to the AB Scania-Vabis corporate symbol (SAAB) logo used between 1984 and 2000:

Saab1The Scania-Vabis logo in the early days looked like this:

Saab2Scania is the name of the southern province of Sweden (Skåne, in Swedish) from which a truck company in Malmö took its name. The name Vabis is derived from the name Vagnfabriksaktiebolaget i Södertälje, or Södertälje Coachbuilding Company, which was founded in 1891. The two companies merged in spring of 1911 and became known as Aktiebolaget Scania-Vabis until 1969.

A Scania-Vabis truck from 1914.
A Scania-Vabis truck from 1914.

Both the rowing club and Scania started in Malmö, so if Malmö RK started using the Gryphon since the late 1880s, it has priority. So the question, why the flag? And why are blue and white the colours of the club and not yellow and black?

Now another question, should not the year be 1883 given as the founding year as the club’s website says:

Malmö Roddklubb är en av Malmös äldsta aktiva idrottsföreningar. Klubben stiftades 1883, medan verksamheten drog igång 1884 … 

[Malmö Rowing Club is one of Malmö’s oldest active sports clubs. The club was founded in 1883, while the activity started in 1884…]

 Göran’s answers:
Dear Louis ~ while it might seem confusing with the griffin, the rowing club’s colours (white and blue), the club’s racing colours (black and yellow) and the club’s starting year, it is actually just that – confusing. As a matter of fact, during the 1880s, the colours of Malmö RK were yellow and dark blue!

From a prize ceremony in 1886. Malmö RK's members are wearing yellow and dark blue shirts, blue shorts and blue caps.
From a prize ceremony in 1886. Malmö RK’s members are wearing yellow and dark blue shirts, blue trousers and blue caps.

Many Swedish rowing clubs around the turn of the 20th century had white and blue as their club colours, so also did Malmö RK. In 1905, one of the club’s members, Emil Malmsten, composed the Malmö RK’s flag, with four fields, two in blue and two in white.

Outside the boat house in 1934, when Malmö RK celebrated the 50th anniversary. Observe the white and blue flag on the oarsmen's chests.
Outside the boat house in 1934, when Malmö RK celebrated the 50th anniversary. Observe the white and blue flag on the oarsmen’s chests.

It was first after watching a special team at the 1972 Olympic Games that Malmö RK added the black and yellow as the club’s racing colours, and added the griffin to go with the members’ racing kit. On this matter, I once wrote an article on HTBS (November 2010) about these things. Take a look here.

The City of Malmö's coat of arms, from 1437, though this is a modernised version of today.
The coat of arms of the City of Malmö, from 1437, though this is showing a modernised version.

The griffin head is the City of Malmö’s coat of arms from the year 1437. While Malmö’s coat of arms nowadays has been ‘modernised’, it has the same looks as the one from the 1400s.

The confusion about the starting year of Malmö RK is still nagging the club’s members. Rowing had been going on in Malmö since the beginning of the 1880s, but it was first in 1883 some prominent men in town decided to form a club. Although, the club was founded in the autumn of 1883, it was decided that the first ‘official’ day of the club’s activities should be 1 January 1884. And there we are now.

Members of Malmö RK in their racing gear, competing at the 2015 Henley Masters: stroke Per Ekström, 2 Thomas Barge, 3 Håkan Christensson and bow Joakim Brischewski (Kungälvs RK). Photo: Tim Koch.


  1. Regarding the comment about the embroidered badge and the content for the new Malmo blazer, I feel some anguish as I tried my best as an artistic embroidery designer when asked for suggestions to incorporate more of these elements into the new crest design, without the benefit of the time or knowledge to cover the history and club colours which you have described so well here.

    It is a pity that this article has apparently come about as critical after making the commissioned blazer when it would have been very helpful if it had been available before .

    In the end I digitised and embroidered what was commissioned from the artwork sent to me and without the benefit of the above historical information and direct contact with the client, such is the way that we work.

    I love what doing what I do and I am proud of my small contribution to your very smart Malmo Roddklub blazer and the many other clubs that I see proudly worn on the riverbanks of Henley.

    If ‘Gentlemen’ are meant to be defined and seen without a badge on their blazer pockets, then they assume incorrectly in this modern day and age that everyone knows who they are and which club and team they support. The edgings, pocket crest and now the stripe fabrics ensure a unique boating blazer when we ran out of different single colours to define every club years ago.

    • Dear Ms Thomas ~ I am devastated to read that you have taken this article as criticism of your fine work with the badge (flag) on the Malmö RK’s blazer. The article writer, Mr Louis Petrin, of Australia, did not have the background or all facts when he wrote this article. I took the opportunity to make a comment in his article to try to straighten out the facts, and also to show the readers of HTBS of some of the problems with the history of some rowing clubs – when did a club actually start? How club colours might have changed throughout the years, etc. My friend Per Ekström, who is the president of Malmö RK, filled me in from a distance about the discussions he had with the board and members during the process of ‘creating’ a boating jacket for the club, a blazer which the members could proudly wear at regattas, club dinners and other gatherings. I think it was easily decided that it was the club’s flag which was going to be on the blazer pocket, not the black and yellow griffin, as the latter ‘only’ represents the club’s active women and men who are racing for Malmö RK. I know that the members who ordered the club blazers from Collier & Robinson, including me, are extremely pleased with the firm’s and your craftwork. I can honestly say that Malmö RK’s flag has never looked lovelier and I fully agree with you that the pocket crest is a valuable signum indicating the allegiance to a certain club. Now and in the future I will be pleased to wear Malmö RK’s delightful boating jacket.
      Yours sincerely ~ Göran R Buckhorn

  2. I think I might have something to say in this matter. I am the Per Ekström Mr Buckhorn is writing about above and the one to blame – or honour – in the making of Malmö Roddklubb´s first and Very Official club blazer. I must say I am very proud of the design, in which I had very close and professional help from the women at Collier and Robinson´s office in Henley. I also had a nice mail discussion back and forth with Ms Thomas in how to create a crest that will last for years. A great part of the designing of the blazer goes back to our rules of the club. As the president of Malmö Roddklubb, I have been involved in recreating the rules and regulations, which took a great part of the year 2015 to look into. This is the first real overhaul we have had since 1964 (!) and amongst others, we have looked to the sentences about the official colours and how to use the flag. Therefore we have agreed on going back to the blue-and-white as our official colors, when representing the club and the black-with-yellow-details when racing. We have also agreed in not mixing them both, lets say using a blue-and-white griffin or so. I do agree with Louis Petrin – it is confusing with the griffin at our website. Give us a year or so and then we will try to clean up and be more strict (you haven´t seen our letter-heads and envelopes…)
    /Yours sincerely, Per Ekström

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