The Flag Man of Winterbourne

August 07 2013
The Flag Man of Winterbourne

GORDON Blight meets me at the entrance of his Winterbourne house with a mug of tea in his hand. As we sit down to chat I notice the design on the mug is that of the flags flown for Nelson’s famous ‘England expects’ message to the fleet before the battle of Trafalgar. This is the Flag Man of Winterbourne, and the flag man is a little distracted.

GORDON Blight meets me at the entrance of his Winterbourne house with a mug of tea in his hand.

As we sit down to chat I notice the design on the mug is that of the flags flown for Nelson’s famous ‘England expects’ message to the fleet before the battle of Trafalgar.

This is the Flag Man of Winterbourne, and the flag man is a little distracted.  

The royal baby is due, and Gordon has been sorting out his union flags ready to fly in celebration on the twin flagpoles in the centre of the village.

Prince George arrives later that afternoon, and Gordon soon has the Scottish saltire (celebrating Andy Murray’s Wimbledon triumph) and a rugby flag (in honour of the Lions’ win) down with something more regal in their place.

It’s a well oiled operation, as you might expect for someone who has been doing this for 15 years.

Gordon started flying flags to celebrate the 800th anniversary of St Michael’s Church in Winterbourne in 1998.

“It started off as just fun. Nobody was using the pole so I started flying odd little flags up there, then it got more regular so you’d fly certain flags for events like St David’s days and St George’s day”.  

Now Gordon has hundreds of flags and when they aren’t being flown, they are kept in the ensuite bathroom of his Winterbourne house.

He tells me it isn’t an obsession by any means, but it is something you can tell he’s enormously proud of.

He tells me he gets a lot of encouragement from the public.

‘If you are doing the flags, it not uncommon to get toots and hoots from the cars as they go by. By the time you look around they’ve gone. People will come across and speak to you, and say how they’ve enjoyed the flags”.

The design of the flagpoles have come on since he started.  They had to change them once, after flags commerating 60 years of independence for India and Pakistan were torn down and the poles broken.

Now the poles are on pivots, which means Gordon doesn’t have to balance on a ladder when gusts of winds can race up Beacon Lane reaching 120 miles an hour at the top of the pole.

Normally the flags flown aren’t controversial, but Gordon admits breaking that rule once.

“The only time I caused offence was when they invaded Iraq. I put up the skull and crossbones with the Stars and Stripes below it. I did get a couple of remarks, asking if I really wanted to do that”.

Gordon spends around £100 a year on flags, a sum that is increasing as organisations copyright their designs.  

“I am retired and I have no income at all - I’m 80 next year, so unless someone gives me a flag or gives me a tenner or something, I’ve had it.  It will gradually peter out”.

Before that happens, Gordon is hoping an apprentice might step forward to continue the fine traditions of the Flag Man of Winterbourne.