A great new exhibition, A Message in Time, has just opened in Tipperay County Museum in Clonmel and there’s a chance to see there several items on loan from the An Post Museum & Archive. The exhibition takes as its starting point Tipperary County Museum’s rich post card collection and uses that to draw out local stories through multi-media, textile and traditional displays.
The exhibition opened earlier this week and a special post card, which uses a 1983 Robert Ballagh stamp design, can be posted in an old letter box on display.
Advertising slogans added by the Post Office to letters as they are postmarked are interesting pieces of ephemera. This envelope, addressed to the Gouldings’s fertiliser company back in 1964, with its advice of “June for your Irish holiday”, would have had it right for this year certainly!
We couldn’t le the 16th June go by without a nod to James Joyce. Here he is on a 2004 Irish post office stamp. Did you know that a first edition of Ulysses, sent from Davy Byrne’s pub in Dublin, was impounded by the British Post Office under censorship laws? Curiously, the book wasn’t banned at that stage in Ireland!
In the days before electricity, working lives in institutions like the Post Office were governed by daylight to a much greater extent than today. This candlestick (formerly on display in our museum and now back in the National Museum’s collection) from the old GPO in College Green Dublin is a reminder of those times. When the new GPO in Sackville Street (today’s O’Connell Street) was built, there was still a reliance on candles, of course, but gas light was also introduced not too long after the building was completed. Early gas was rather noxious stuff, however, and staff complained of feeling ill. The light might have been stronger but at least candle light was pure.
Ireland has produced many notable literary men and women over the centuries but fewer scientists. In recent years, there has however been an increasing awareness that there have been remarkable talents too in science, engineering and mathematics and one of the greatest was undoubtedly Hamilton whose work in mechanics and optics continues to have relevance today.
The excellent, A word a day, website recently featured the German Carl Friedrich Gauss and showed a stamp that had been issued for him by the German Post Office. That prompted me to find some Irish stamps featuring scientific men and since Hamilton has actually been commemorated twice by the Irish Post Office, once in 1943 and again – as shown here – in 2005 I thought he should take pride of place.
Finland marks this year the centenary of its independence, an event that has a strong resonance with Ireland’s 1916 commemoration last year. Finlandia, 2017, an international philatelic exhibition, has just taken place in the city of Tampere and this very well-organized occasion naturally focused on Finland’s history and philatelic treasures but there was a great deal of interest too to be found in the many high-class exhibits from around the world that examined so many different areas of philately and postal history. Congratulations to those whose exhibits were marked with particular success, not least the Irish contingent who did so well!
The Finnish postal museum, one of several very interesting museums housed in an old industrial building, had on show treasures from its own collection, including the 1856 5 and 10 kopek stamps, and also material on loan from Queen Elizabeth’s collection, including the Kirkcudbright Penny Black multiple cover. The opportunity to see some of the world’s greatest stamp rarities was relished by the many visitors who came to Tampere. The ride from the exhibition centre to the postal museum in an old Finnish postal bus was a nice treat for everyone too!
For anyone near the Turlough Park Country Life division of the National Museum tomorrow, you might be interested in an illustrated talk on the history of the Post Office in Ireland, Serving Society, at 2pm in the museum.
The Post Office’s letter sorting office was once in the GPO but when the building was destroyed in the 1916 rebellion and later reconstructed, the sorting office was not reinstated. Instead sorting was done in a building in Pearse Street. When that building was deemed unsuitable, a new office was built in Sheriff Street and many Dublin postal staff will remember working in that building. Students too, who maybe got a job at Christmas, will remember its cavernous interiors, the mail sorting divisions, the machinery that sometimes worked and the loading platforms where the vans and lorries drew up.
Sheriff Street is greatly changed now and the IFSC has taken over from the Post office as the dominant employer in the locality but memories of the sorting office remain in the minds of the many staff – postmen, drivers, sorters, clerks etc. – who worked there from the late 1960s till it closed in the 1990s.
In 1947 the Irish old age pension was just ten shillings in old money: that’s about 60 cents in today’s euros although we would have to adjust for inflation and purchasing power of course. It was payable, as it still is, through the Post Office and this order bears the postmark of the Grand Parade post office in Cork city although it is the Irish language version that is used on the date-stamp, Sráid a’ Chapaill Bhuidhe, the Street of the Yellow Horse. There’s a puzzle for denizens of the real capital now – what’s the origin of that?
This seventy year old pension order has more of social history lore to offer. It bears an addition little stamp signifying that an extra five shillings should be added to the order. This was thanks to the liberality of the reforming first Inter-Party Government which replaced de Valera in 1948 and in particular to William Norton, Tánaiste and Labour Party leader, who introduced the measure… and Norton, of course, had started life as a Post Office employee and became secretary of the Post Office Workers’ Union!
So much to be learned from one little item in our Museum & Archive collection.