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
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.
Assistant Secretary & Museum Curator
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!
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.
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”.
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!
Our exhibition and museum in the GPO will, sadly, be closing at the end of next month to make way for ongoing work on the new 1916 museum, GPO Witness History. Since we opened our postal museum getting on for five years ago we have had the pleasure of welcoming many thousands of visitors to Dublin’s GPO and introducing them to the history and continuing role of the Post Office in Ireland. Young and old, native “Dubs” and visitors from around the world, stamp collectors, historians, and the perennially curious have, I believe, come away from the GPO with an increased appreciation for a wonderfully historic building and an organisation which has been at the heart of Ireland’s history for so many generations. It has been fun for those of us involved with the Museum here to have met so many interesting people and to have had an opportunity to share our enthusiasm for the Post Office and its wider role in Irish life and we hope to continue to do this through other channels and on other occasions.
Assistant Company Secretary
Easter was earlier this year than it was in 1916 and we have marked the occasion already but our picture shows the ruined GPO after the destruction caused by the Rising. The event brought out plenty of people to see what had happened at the Post Office that year and some of them will have wondered perhaps why the rebels chose the GPO as their headquarters. The building was in a central location of course and it commanded a strong position but it was the fact that it controlled communications, and particularly telegraph communications, that made it particularly attractive to the 1916 leaders. The story of how the building was occupied and the reaction and role of the postal staff who were on duty is not well known and it is a theme explored in the GPO Museum’s Letters Lives & Liberty exhibition which is due to close in the next few weeks. So drop into the GPO and get the background in time for next year’s centenary commemorations!
This is a big year for stamp collectors as they mark 175 years since the world’s first adhesive postage stamp was introduced back in 1840. The little square of black paper with a finely engraved profile of the young Queen Victoria has become an item that many collectors want to have. It’s not that expensive a stamp – it’s significance lies more in being the “first” and in what it meant for people who wrote letters. At just a penny, it really opened up correspondence, news and education for people who were formerly excluded by the high cost of postage.
The stamps were used in Ireland, of course, since the Royal Mail covered both Britain and Ireland at that time and the interesting story of how one very early Penny Black came to be used on a letter from Dublin to London in May 1840 is told in a little booklet, which contains an exact replica of the letter and stamps, available from our philatelic department.
The Fitzpatrick – Thomas Letter of 1840
Irish theatre has long enjoyed a high reputation which was confirmed by something I saw a few weeks before Christmas. The Last Post is an innovative and engaging piece of drama which is centred on the people and activities of a fictional Returned Letters Branch of An Post. The directors, Liadain Kaminska and Darren Sinnott, and their team invite the audience into the lives of those who write and sort letters and in the process, make us think about the human need to communicate and connect with others as part of life. Using all the resources of the old fire brigade station in Rathmines as the stage , the audience is guided by the postal staff on an intimate and at times anarchic journey which culminates in a chance to sort letters in a way that would never be officially countenanced at An Post! It’s a creative and amusing piece of drama that deserves to be seen.
Stephen Ferguson – Curator, An Post Museum
The local post office, a town sub-office like this one or more often a rural office, has long been part of the fabric of Irish life with people not only using it to transact business but also as a place to met their friends and catch up on the news. Technological development over the last generation has brought huge change in the way people go about their business now and there has been an inevitable impact on post offices too. Photographs of local post offices form part of our archive here and I am always glad when people turn up old post office pictures and donate them to our collection. In this case, I am grateful to Mick Brown for letting me use this delightful photograph with what looks like an interesting conversation going on outside the office! You will find other great shots in his recent book on Dublin.