The Travelling Post Office or TPO, as it was known within the Post Office, was a vital part of postal infrastructure in Ireland from 1855 until the last ones were taken out of service in 1994. Clerks would sort letters en route so that they would be ready, close to delivery order, by the time the train arrived at its destination. Bags of mail, moreover, would be taken on and offloaded by means of a special net and pole apparatus at points on the journey without the train having to stop. The system was remarkably efficient and the men who worked on the TPOs were experts in their knowledge of the postal system and Irish geography.
Having been in storage for many years, the last of our TPO carriages was moved last weekend to Downpatrick’s railway museum where it will be on loan from the Post Office to form, in due course, part of a display in the Downpatrick & County Down Railway’s exhibition. The ties between the Post Office and the railways in Ireland have been very strong over the last 150 years or so and it is nice to find an appreciative and fitting home for the last of these purpose-built Post Office carriages.
It is 99 years ago today since the mail boat, RMS Leinster, was sunk in the Irish Sea just a couple of weeks before the end of the Great War. More than 500 people lost their lives that day including 21 of the 22 Post Office staff on board making it one of the worst of Irish maritime disasters. The German U Boat which sank the ship was itself lost when it struck a mine on its way home and so further lives were lost.
Events in Ireland, as it moved towards independence, and a reluctance at official levels to dwell too much on the disaster after the end of the war meant that it was overlooked for many years but in recent times the tragedy has been remembered and the lives of those who died commemorated.
For stamps, letter boxes, postcards and even 500 years of the Reformation, visit the Irish national stamp show at Griffith College this weekend!
The latest stamp issue from the Irish Post Office shows it is doing its best to be edgy and contemporary in its approach. The new booklet and associated stamps are striking and the booklet provides an interesting insight into the development of street art over the last twenty years or so from an expression of political protect to an art form in its own right. Admirers of the genre will be pleased to see this new addition to some of the excellent art stamps issued by the Post Office since its first foray into contemporary art back in 1969 – remember the large format Evie Hone Eton Chapel window?
All eyes are on Tullamore for the ploughing at present but back in 1973 the focus was on Wellington Bridge in county Wexford for world event. The stamp by Patrick Scott captures the essence of earth against a blue sky with the horizontal lines paying tribute to the ploughman’s straight lines.
We attended the very well organised Finlandia stamp exhibition in Tampere earlier in the year which focused particularly on the centenary of Finnish independence. Sinn Fein’s propaganda labels, used here in the years before the 1916 rebellion, probably drew inspiration from a similar scheme drawn up by the Finns to highlight the desire for independence from Russia.
The Celtic Cross motif used here later, of course, became better known as part of Ireland’s first definitive issue.
This medal can be awarded to civil servants for particularly diligent, faithful and effective service and occasionally it was awarded to Irish Post Office staff in the days before independence in 1922. The example shown here was given to solicitor in the GPO over a century ago. It bears the insignia of Edward VII and the wording “For faithful service”.
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!