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
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 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.
Heritage Week at the An Post Museum will be taking place from the 23rd August to the 30th August 2014 here in the GPO Dublin. Please note that the GPO is closed on Sundays.
Heritage Week is a great way for people of all ages to discover and explore Irish history and heritage.
Here at the GPO Dublin, the An Post Museum will be open for free from 10am to 5pm.
There are a number of special tours organised for the week-long festival exploring the history of the Irish Post Office.
Free tickets are available through Eventbrite.
A happy Independence Day to our friends in the USA!
This 75 year old first flight cover, kindly donated to our archive, marks the transatlantic air connection between Foynes in county Limerick and New York. For a short period before the Second World War a flying boat service operated from Foynes and it carried mail as well as passengers. It was, of course, an expensive passage but for those who had the means it was a fast and glamorous trip and those times are well commemorated in the Foynes Flying Boat Museum today.
The war put a stop to the flights and with the rise of jet-engine aircraft, the flying boats, as a commercial venture, were consigned to history. Shannon airport, however, developed from the operations here and established itself as a transatlantic hub.
I am indebted to the son of a former Post Office man for this image of a Post Office programme featuring Lennox Robinson’s well-known play, Drama at Inish. Paddy Cahill was Head Messenger here in the GPO and was active in many different facets of Post Office life, including acting and stage management. The advent of television and subsequent technology largely eroded the one very strong tradition of employees organising dramatic, musical and various other societies as adjuncts to their work. Many people found a talent or honed a skill through their participation in these clubs and societies and the Post Office, as a major employer, was no exception.
Image of the Month: May 2014
Patrick Scott, who died earlier this year, was an Irish artist of international renown whose distinctive signature image – a disc of shimmering gold leaf applied to a plain canvas – is instantly recognisable. On display in the GPO Museum at the moment are a couple of Scott-related items drawn from An Post’s archive.
Born in Kilbrittain in county Cork his interest in painting was encouraged by a far-sighted school-teacher at St. Columba’s College in Dublin and later by his association with the White Stag Group of painters who experimented with various aspects of modernism. Scott trained as an architect and worked for Michael Scott’s practice. Following his success at the Guggenheim in New York and the Venice Biennale he left the practice in 1960 to devote himself to artistic work.
He was a man, however, whose creative genius spanned many disciplines: he worked on the Busáras building, created many beautiful tapestries, had fun inventing street decorations and also found time to design a number of postage stamps for the Post Office.
The stamps shown here illustrate different aspects of his graphic talent. The 1972 Olympic stamps were issued to mark the 50th anniversary of the Irish Olympic Council. For this he took inspiration from a carved slab at Clonmacnoise, one of Irelands’ most famous monastic settlements. The other stamps, in colour and line, display a marked contract in style and were designed by Patrick Scott for the World Ploughing Championships in 1973.
50th Anniversary of the Irish Olympic Council
World Ploughing Championships in 1973
Image of the month – April
This is an early twentieth century stamp album bearing a figure distributing letters. Any idea who it represents? Well, if you’re guessing Mercury or Hermes (the classical Greek version) take a bow – you’re right! Mercury was the messenger of the gods and hence a suitable figure to appear on post-related items. He, or perhaps she in this rather androgynous version, carries a staff entwined with snakes, the symbol of his authority and wears winged slippers and a helmet. The figure appears on our own GPO here in Dublin as one of the three statues on the roof of the building.
Expressions and tokens of love are never out of fashion, of course, but the tradition of sending cards to someone we love through the post grew rapidly – with cheap postage – from the middle of the nineteenth century. In 1863 the Postmaster General reported that 430,000 valentines passed through the London office alone and added that he saw “ no tendency to abandon” the practice. He wasn’t an old kill-joy but was a bit worried about the greatly increased mail volumes and the extra costs they imposed on the Post Office. The card displayed here, published by the firm of Ernest Nister, is from our archive and is a nice early twentieth example of a picture valentine where the message is conveyed in a rather cute combination of words and pictures.
Keen to do our own bit to keep romance alive, we will have our Museum in the GPO open free on Valentine’s Day this year and visitors who enter a little competition there will have the chance to win one of our new stamp mugs depicting – what else? – a love stamp!