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.
With yesterday being Remembrance Sunday and tomorrow Armistice Day, people everywhere are remembering those who were killed and injured in the First World War and other terrible conflicts. Many Post Office employees, including Irishmen, joined the army: some chose to join particular regiments, some like young Mr. Lonergan, a Boy Messenger from Fethard, the Post Office Rifles, while others served with famous Irish regiments like the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. The official circulars of the war years carry the weekly toll of those who died. Our image today is drawn from An Post’s archive and lists the names of some of those Post Office colleagues who died.
This rather splendid chair with its sedan style hood used to sit in the entrance hall of the GPO in Dublin. The porter on the Prince’s street side of the building, at what was known as the Minister’s entrance, to the GPO used to sit in this and welcome visitors from his unusual vantage point. This type of chair was often found in institutional settings and in the hallways of grand houses. I am unclear as to its origins and how it came to be in the GPO after 1916 but it is an interesting piece in our collections and can currently be seen on display in an exhibition – The GPO – Two Hundred Years – running at the Irish Architectural Archive, 45 Merrion square, Dublin.
The 6th June marks the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy and the beginning of the end of the Second World War. For one Irishman who had left the beaches of Dunkirk just a few years earlier, the return of allied soldiers to continental Europe must have been a special thing. On the night of the 31st May/1st June, Harold Marcus Ervine-Andrews, the county Cavan born son of a bank manager became the first British army soldier of that war to be awarded the Victoria Cross. His conspicuous bravery in engaging the advancing German troops helped to win time for the evacuation of beaten and demoralised soldiers from Dunkirk. This special cover, which he signed, was produced in 1990 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the successful evacuation of so many from the French beaches.