Proposal for a Civic Motto for Essex
Alec Finlay, 2009
drawing executed by Jo Salter
I was approached to consider the possibility of revising – redeeming – the heraldic tradition, which, given it combines text and image, hovers somewhere over my fields of interest.
Fortunately the first subject that was suggested to me for consideration was civic, rather than aristocratic: the potential of a new coat of arms for the county of Essex.
I took as my theme the coast, looking out from Essex toward the sea horizon – a blue-grey line, translated here into blue and red – which is about to see an influx of vertical windmill turbines.
The existing heraldic crests for Essex features three sea axes – thought to be a memory of Norse sea-raids – so I was translating technologies, exchanging the sharp edge of a warlike blade with the aerodynamic edge of a windmill blade.
My text was inspired by John Clare, who spent his early asylum years in Epping Forest – with a nod to Iain Sinclair, who retraced his route.
Clare considered the horizon – or 'orison', in his dialect – as a natural edge for any man's life.
'I had imagined that the worlds end was at the edge of the orison & that a days journey was able to find it so I went on with my heart full of hopes pleasures & discoverys expecting when I got to the brink of the world that I could look down like looking into a large pit & see into is secrets the same as I believd I could see heaven by looking into the water.'
The fleur-de-lys was adopted as a floral emblem because it's triadic form echoes the three blades that give these gigantic windmills their equilibrium.
Again the insistent connection between this new sharp-edged new technology and flowering, and flowering gardens with the sea.