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.
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:
Scania 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.
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…]
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!
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.
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 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.