Over the centuries a great many people have worked for the Post Office in Ireland and I regularly receive enquiries from people who are trying to piece together their family history. It’s well-known that a great deal of Irish historical material has been lost and the GPO’s role in the 1916 Rising means that Irish postal records suffered a like fate. Occasionally, however, it is possible to find out information that does help people in their research and the case of Thomas Hollinshead is one such.
The portrait, by Lawrence of Dublin, shows the distinguished figure of Thomas Hollinshead, an Englishman whose family was long settled in Staffordshire. He had joined the privately owned Electric Telegraph Company in 1854 and, when telegraph work was taken over by the Post Office, found himself a postal employee. He moved to Ireland and transferred to the survey branch of the Post Office, being appointed Assistant Surveyor of the Irish Midland District from 1884. He ended his days in Wales and died in 1910.
The photograph was kindly donated to the An Post Museum & Archive by his descendants when the Canadian and Irish branches of the family joined up and met me in the GPO recently. When, a couple of years ago, I received similar genealogical enquiries about Thomas Hollinshead from both Canada and Ireland, it was rewarding to be able to reunite family members who had lost touch over the intervening generations.