The First World War – the Lusitania tragedy

The First World War – the Lusitania tragedy



The sinking of the Cunard liner, RMS Lusitania, by a German submarine off the Old Head of Kinsale on the 7th May 1915 was a terrible maritime tragedy and a highly significant event in the First World War since it was instrumental in bringing the United States into the war on the side of the United Kingdom. The centenary of the tragedy was marked by the Post Office earlier this year through the issue of a commemorative stamp. With Armistice Day this month our image this month is of a recruitment poster from our collection that made use of the tragedy for propaganda purposes.

Poolbeg Egg Box

Poolbeg Egg Box

Wrap your egg and post!

Wrap your egg and post!

It was common practice in the past to send eggs through the post and to avoid breakage, a sturdy box with individual wrappers like this one, the “Poolbeg”, was popular and a Post Office fragile label  was stuck on the box.

175 years of the Penny Black

This year marks the 175th anniversary of the introduction of the Penny Black postage stamp, a little piece of paper bearing the profile of Queen Victoria which would become an icon for stamp colectors and a harbinger of cheap and efficient communication for everyone.

Penny Black and Penny Red

The Penny Black had a short existence – black postmarks did not show up well against it – and the colour of the stamp was soon changed to red whcih showed the frank much more clearly.

The Fitzpatrick-Thomas letter, posted in Dublin on the 8th May 1840, is believed th be the earliest authenticated Irish letter posted with the new stamp. A facsimile and souvenir booklet was produced by the An Post Museum in 2012.


The 1840 Fitzpatrick letter


The 1916 GPO flag-staff

The 1916 GPO flag-pole

This small section of the GPO flag staff, on which the Union Jack had traditionally been flown, is a recent donation to the An Post Museum. It is part of a somewhat longer section found amongst the rubble of the burnt-out building by one of the men contracted to clear up the debris and formed part of a private collection of 1916 and related memorabilia. The piece shows signs of cracking and is split in one place, evidence of the great heat generated by the fires that consumed the building and much of O’Connell Street during the rebellion.

A small section of the 1916 flag-pole recently donated to the An Post Museum & Archive

A small section of the 1916 flag-pole recently donated to the An Post Museum & Archive

The GPO Museum – looking ahead

While our museum in the GPO must unfortunately close at the end of the month to make way for ongoing work on the new 1916 Witness History centre, the An Post Museum & Archive will, of course, continue its work to preserve items of postal historical interest and to promote a greater awareness of the important role played by the Post Office in the development of so many aspects of Irish life over the generations. I would certainly echo my colleague Saoirse’s sentiments in relation to our Letters, Lives & Liberty exhibition in the GPO museum. It has been fun to meet so many different types of visitors over the last few years – tourists and locals, school children and pensioners, architects, historians, philatelists, designers and fellow postal workers. In creating this museum, my aim was to open up the Irish postal world and use it to introduce some of the subjects – transport, printing, finance and design, as well as Irish administrative and political history – that have been connected with the Post Office over the centuries. It has been rewarding for us to hear from so many people who enter the museum expecting just to learn a bit  about stamps and leave it amazed at the impact the Post Office has had on Irish life. That has been the measure of the museum’s success over the last five years.


The physical GPO museum will close on the 30th May 2015 but we shall continue to use our website and other channels to provide a virtual display of and information on some of the material that was there, adding new things from our archive collections from time to time. Keep your eyes open too for occasional talks or touring exhibitions or for items that we may display elsewhere – like this pillar box that we recently provided for the departures area of Dublin airport – an enduring and friendly symbol of Ireland for people leaving our shores.

Stephen Ferguson
Assistant Secretary & Museum Curator

GPO, Dublin

A Letter from the Ledge – Farewell and Thank you

Dear Customers,

As most of you may know by now the An Post Museum will be closing down on 29th May 2015.

For almost five years, I have welcomed thousands of visitors from all over Ireland and the world into An Post Museum.
It has been absolutely wonderful in getting to see and hear how many of you have enjoyed the experience.

I would like to extend a big “thank you” to all of you, our customers, who have kindly supported us here at An Post Museum by visiting, sharing your stories about you or your family members, who at one time worked for the Irish Post Office, for writing to us about the museum for articles and books etc, as well as Tweeting and Facebooking us.

For me, it has been an absolute pleasure getting to meet you and being given the chance to share with you Ireland’s wonderful and almost secretive history of Irish Communications Heritage. I hope that you will continue to take part in exploring Ireland’s communications history both past and present. Please make sure to tell others about your wonderful stories as it is important to remember who our ancestors in the Irish Post Office were and how their actions made a huge impact in shaping the wider world of communications.There is so much out there waiting to be rediscovered in every town and village in Ireland; from people’s own histories to old postboxes, stamp collections, old letters and more importantly you. It is through people efforts in finding out about their local history, writing it down, preserving what they find and talking about it, so that younger generations will learn and understand how we got here especially through tough times in our nations history.

I would also like to especially thank my colleagues for their wonderful enthusiasm and hard work in helping to make our Open Days, Heritage Week, Open House and Culture Night successful.

ThanksBest wishes and thanks again,

Saoirse Kennedy
Exhibition Officer
An Post Museum

“Dalek” letter box

Clothing for pillar boxes is  a novel idea!


This photograph, kindly sent in to me, shows an ordinary green pillar box in Phibsborough in Dublin, kitted out in a knitted Dalek costume as part of the recent Phizfest festival. Street bollards received similar apparel and the whole effect certainly brought a new dimension to posting  a letter!

May Day

Today is the day we remember the place of work and working people in society. Postal staff throughout the world number hundreds of thousands of people with the Post Office remaining a big employer in many countries despite the technological changes of the last generation. An Post’s staff numbers about 10,000 people, each with a particular role – be it delivery, clerical, administrative or managerial – so that the services of the Post Office are brought as efficiently as possible to people at home and abroad. The card illustrated is an attractive and early union one issued by the Letter Carriers branch of the Dublin Postmen’s Federation and it symbolises union and friendship between staff throughout the land.

Dublin Postmans Federation

Anthony Trollope 1815-1882 – Happy Birthday 24th April

Trollope, remembered chiefly as a Victorian novelist, was also a highly respected civil servant and Irish Post Office official. An unsettled early life with family and financial difficulties led to the young Trollope seeking a job in the GPO in London.  Various warnings about his conduct and performance found his opting for a transfer to Ireland as a surveyor’s clerk rather than being dismissed. The move to Ireland in 1841 marked a turning point in his career. He arrived in Dublin to find his London boss had given him a very poor reference, saying “he was worthless, and must in all probability be dismissed” but that he would be “judged on his merits”.

 Trollope Stamp

Within a year he had redeemed his professional reputation, met the woman he would marry and found Ireland, which he came to know very well, much to his liking. He came to know Ireland very well indeed and would appear before a Parliamentary Committee as an expert on its postal affairs. The country and its Post Office, indeed,  gave him a discipline and focus which certainly helped to keep him on the straight and narrow and he repaid this with a sympathy and understanding of Ireland and its people which was somewhat unusual amongst establishment figures of the time. So here’s a toast to our former colleague from his latter day colleagues in the GPO!

Stephen Ferguson

Assistant Secretary