DID YOU KNOW?: The Coat of Arms of The UWI

The Coat of Arms of The University of the West Indies

Have you had a look at the UWI Coat of Arms? It is the official symbol of the four Campus University of the West Indies.  It appears on official stationary, posters, certificates and degrees, memorabilia, on the academic dress of senior university officials, and is the most visible symbol of the University.

One of the earliest functions of the Provisional Council of the University College of the West Indies (UCWI) was to decide on a Coat of Arms for the fledgling institution. The armorial bearings for UCWI were designed by Mr. H Ellis Tomlinson of Thornton-le-Fyfe in Lancashire for the sum of 120 Guineas. In a letter dated February 7, 1947 from Tomlinson to Walter Adams of the Colonial Office, Tomlinson outlined a proposal with notes on possible designs for the College’s armorial bearing, parts of which were incorporated in the final approved design. The initial design called for seven crowns to represent the three islands Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad), two island groups (Leewards and Windwards) and two mainland colonies (British Guiana and British Honduras) to be served by UCWI.

A number of designs were considered. The top four designs featured a shield divided into two main parts with either a book or crown imposed on blue and white wavy lines on the lower half. The upper half of the shield was red in background, with a book, a rising sun, or the Royal Lion as the dominant figure.

At a meeting of the Provisional Council in January of 1949 a design was approved. It featured a shield divided into two with the main part showing an open book superimposed on blue and white wavy lines. The upper part of the shield is red and carries on it a yellow lion. The lion is a symbol of the British Monarchy, but since the lion cannot be identical with the Royal Lion it has been “differenced” by the addition of black marks on the lion’s skin, technically known as “erminois”.  These same markings also appear in the coat-of-arms of Princess Alice, the UCWI’s first Chancellor.

The crest is a brown Pelican.  Principal, Dr. T. Taylor suggested the brown Pelican as it was a “bird found all over the Caribbean and is a traditional symbol of piety”.  The arms are shown surrounded by what is technically known as “mantling”, which includes the symbol of a helmet with the visor closed indicating that the arms have been granted to a corporation rather than an individual. So take a good look at this emblem of our institution, each characteristic is meaningful and symbolizes the unity of The University of the West Indies.

Proposed Sketches of the shield of the Coat of Arms of The University of the West Indies


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