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.
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
Expressions and tokens of love take many different forms and while the tradition of sending special cards on Valentine’s Day to someone we love through the post is not as strong as it once was, the Post Office still expects additional volume around the 14th February. This special mug, for sale in the GPO Museum in Dublin, depicts a stamp which takes a creative slant on the nature of love. The designer focuses on the Red Setter rather than the pair of toe-touching lovers and, by declining to portray the human faces, our minds are cleverly turned to thinking of love in a new way.
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.
This year we are not only celebrating Christmas but also two hundred years since the foundation stone of the GPO was laid in 1814. There will be free entry to the An Post Museum from the 8th December till Christmas Eve so do come and take a look at our exhibition, Letters, Lives & Liberty, and if you drop in at lunch-time, you’ll also be able to join in with the traditional carol singing in the Public Office.
Have a very Happy Christmas.
An Post Museum and the GPO are closed Sundays and Bank Holidays.
Keep an eye on this page and our social media channels to keep up to date with details for events at the An Post Museum – GPO Dublin.
While the Post Office has long carried letters, its role in parcels is not so old. During the nineteenth century, carriage of parcels was by road carters and subsequently by the railways but towards the end of the century the Post Office entered this market and following the adoption of the Post Office (Parcels) Act in 1882, letter carriers were renamed postmen and the parcel post became part of the Department’s wider services. it was a move that proved very popular with the public though it meant a big change for the Post Office and its staff. This Christmas card from the An Post archive, sent to staff in Tullamore in 1886, offers fraternal greetings from the Dublin parcels staff. Today, the rise in online shopping means that parcel traffic is again very important for the Post Office.
While technological changes have meant that the volume of Christmas cards has declined dramatically in recent years, the tradition of sending turkeys and geese through the post is a distant memory now and the days of having 1800 telephonists on duty over Christmas are long gone, it’s still a very busy time of the year for the Post Office. People still very much like our Christmas stamps and I have picked out here a selection of some of the attractive stamps we have issued over the years.
The Irish Post Office first issued a special Christmas stamp in 1971 and since then there has been a great variety of designs and styles – from the iconography of Trinity College’s famous Book of Kells and paintings by the great masters to the fresh artistic expressions of children. The GPO’s traditional nativity scene is on display in the Public Office and with the building marking its bicentenary this year, it’s a good time to visit the Museum, post your cards and maybe buy a few souvenir items in our Philatelic Shop, special stamps or prize bonds as Christmas presents.
The particular contribution made by older people to Irish life and society, in so many different ways, is not always appreciated as it should be and, keen to do its part in marking the International day of older persons, the An Post Museum will open free to everyone on the 1st October with a particular welcome for older visitors. Pictured here, from a book in our archive, is Mattie Fox, who served the people of Longford for over 44 years as a rural postman. His face, no longer young, seems nonetheless to radiate contentment and his hat is set at a suitably jaunty angle reflecting, no doubt, a character and temperament that remained youthful despite the passing years. The role of the postman in the local community, particularly for elderly people, is important and the Friends of the Elderly organisation’s Postman of the Year award is a nice way of recognising the work of postmen and women who go beyond what might be expected of them.