Sunday, 9 May 2021

1877. ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡จ Seychelles Overprints Commemorate Conservation Society.


๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡จ The postal service of Seychelles issued a set of 6 overprinted stamps on 10 April 2021 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Island Conservation Society. The stamps were all part of previously released definitive series and were combined for use on a commemorative cover of which there were only 2000 produced. The overprint in black is very simple - ‘ICS 2001 - 2021’; the stamps are mainly low values from the 1993 -2000 set depicting flora and fauna - 25c Bronze gecko, 50c Tree frog,  Re1 on Re1.50 Seychelles skink surcharge, Re1 Splendid palm plus the 50c value from the 2003 - 2005 ‘Marine life’ issue and the 2014 Green turtle Rs50 stamp. Rating:- *****.

   The illustrations are poor quality but the best I can do at the moment.

๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช An Post issued a pair of stamps depicting endangered local wildlife on 6 May 2021 as its contribution to the 2021 EUROPA omnibus series. An interesting enough issue depicting the attractive White prominent moth and Freshwater Pearl mussel. Rating:- *****.

Thursday, 6 May 2021

1876. ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡พ Cyprus Commemorates National Hero.


๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡พ Cyprus Post issued a single stamp on 6 May 2021 to commemorate Efrosini Proestou (1903-93) who is known as the Lady of Lapithos, a hero of the 1974 struggles in the island. The issue was lithographed by Baltic Banknote High Security Printing.  Rating:- ***.

๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง Let’s be honest. After the break-up of The Beatles does not the work of English musician Paul McCartney become little more than a footnote in British music history? So the commemoration of this aged songwriter and musician using the tired old formula showing his post-Beatles music album covers, of which most of the people of Britain are now blissfully unaware I should think, is probably misjudged by Royal Mail which is still hoping that the remaining enthusiasts for music of a bygone age are around in sufficient numbers to want to spend very large amounts of money on stamps and other products which feature him. If Royal Mail had waited until next year they would at least have been commemorating his 80th birthday.

  This assault on the collector’s pocket to be carried out from 28 May 2021 onwards is made up of many, many items but principally a set of 8 stamps (total cost £10.20p), 1 miniature sheet containing 4 different stamps (£5.10p), 1 ‘Collectors sheet containing 1 each of 6 of the values and two each of the other two all with attached labels (£13.00), 3 different ‘fan sheets’ (2 at £7.50 each and the other sold for £10.90), 1 Prestige booklet sold for £20.25p containing 4 different panes including 1 pane of Machin Head definitive (2x 1st, 2x 2p, 2x10p, 2x50p plus one stamp-sized label depicting the performer), 1 ‘limited edition Prestige booklet similar to the ordinary edition but with a different cover (£49.99p) and 1 counter booklet containing 4 x 1st Class rate Machin Head definitive plus 1 each of the 1st Class stamps (£5.10p). That makes, I think, if you ignore the rest of the paraphilatelic detritus being offered for sale along with these items, a total cost of £129.54. Good luck with that one, anyone who must have ‘one of everything’.

  The proud designers of this issue are Baxter and Bailey and the stamps were lithographed by International Security Printers and are perforated 14. Rating:- 0.

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

1875. ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡พ Cyprus’ Cute Seal Pup Steals The 2021 Europa Show.


๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡พ Cyprus Post will issue a pair of stamps each printed in sheetlets of eight plus a booklet of 8 stamps (4 of each stamp se-tenant) on 6 May 2021 as its contribution to the EUROPA omnibus of 2021 which is on the subject of endangered local wildlife. The 64c value depicts a delightful portrait of a seal pup which must be the most appealing stamp of 2021 so far. An excellent issue. Rating:- *****.

๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฟ New Zealand Post will issue a set of 4 stamps and 1 miniature sheet containing all 4 stamps to commemorate Matariki, the Maori new year, on 7 July 2022. The stamps depict Whฤnau Mฤrama, the Family of Light (the sun, moon and the Pleiades star cluster). The colourful issue was designed by Dave Burke and lithographed by Southern Colour Print. Rating:- *****.

๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช An Post, the postal service of the Irish Republic, has announced that it is holding a competition, with a prize of €10000, for an artist to produce a piece of work to commemorate the Centenary of the establishment of the Irish Free State (Saorstรกt ร‰ireann) and the successful piece of art will be featured on a commemorative stamp to coincide with the centenary date of 6 December 2022. 

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

1874. ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡น Malta Commemorates The Death Of Bonaparte.


  ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡น MaltaPost will issue a single miniature sheet on 5 May 2021 to commemorate the Bicentenary of the death of the French tyrant Bonaparte who invaded and occupied Malta in June 1798.

   On 9 June 1798, a huge French fleet on way to attack Egypt arrived off Valletta and demanded that the entire convoy be allowed to enter the harbour to take on supplies but the Grandmaster of the Order of St John which ruled the island, Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim refused to allow more than two ships into the harbour to protect Malta’s neutrality in the war between Bonaparte and Great Britain. In response Bonaparte ordered his fleet to bombard Valletta and on 11 June several thousand French troops were landed on the island at seven key strategic sites. The knights of the Order of St John failed to mount an effective resistance to the invasion although 2000 valiant Maltese native militia resisted the French, falling back to Valletta after the fall of Mdina. Leaving the people of Malta to their fate, von Hompesch negotiated a surrender to Bonaparte agreeing to turn the island and all its resources over to the French while at the same time obtaining estates and pensions for himself and the rest of his knights in France. Hence the rule of the Knights of St John in Malta came to an end with its leaders richly rewarded by the invaders.

  Bonaparte established a garrison of 4000 troops on the island and set off with his fleet for Alexandria on 19 June. The French set about taking over the properties of the Order of St John and the property of the Roman Catholic Church in the island swiftly moving to looting churches. For the devout Maltese this was all too much. During an auction of looted church property on 2 September 1798 an uprising began against the French and within days thousands of Maltese irregulars had driven the French garrison into Valletta and and the harbour area. Ten thousand Maltese irregular soldiers led by Emmanuale Vitale and Francesco Saverio Caruana surrounded Valletta but the fortifications were too strong to enable them to gain entrance. The Maltese built siege fortifications around the city to bombard the French and invited the British to help them remove the occupiers. Captain Alexander Ball was appointed Civil Commissioner in 1799 and the French were finally forced to surrender to the British on 5 September 1800. The defeated French were transported back to Toulon on board British ships and the island became a British protectorate.The British and their allies in Europe finally defeated Bonaparte in 1815 and exiled him to the British island of St Helena where he died on 5 May 1821 (the St Helena postal service is also releasing a set of 4 stamps and 1 miniature sheet on 5 May to commemorate the anniversary of the death of the tyrant who had caused huge amounts of death and suffering throughout Europe and further afield for almost twenty years - see Blog 1824).

  The new miniature sheet was designed by MaltaPost and was lithographed and is perforated 14.

  The events of 1798 were commemorated on their bicentenary by two sets of stamps issued by MaltaPost. The first noted the 200th anniversary of the landing of Bonaparte’s occupying forces and was released on 28 March 1998 and the four stamps featured the treacherous von Hompesch, the departure of the Knights Of Malta, the landing of the French and a rather worried-looking Bonaparte looking rather slimmer than he would be when middle age engulfed him as seen in later portraits of him.

  A second set, this time made up of three stamps, was issued on 6 October 1998 to commemorate the bicentenary of the Maltese people’s uprising against Bonaparte’s occupying forces leading to their eventual expulsion. The stamps depict a detail from a commemorative statue, the defeated French commander Belgrand de Vaubois and the British Civil Commissioner who led the British support for the Maltese people’s liberation of their island, Captain Alexander Ball. All three issues combine to make an interesting mini-collection telling the story of this interesting period in Maltese history.

Monday, 3 May 2021

1873. ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿณ️๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช Centenary Of Northern Ireland.


๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿณ️๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช The United Kingdom is made up of four ‘countries’ (for want of a better word) - The Kingdom of England, The Kingdom of Scotland, The Principality of Wales and Northern Ireland. When I was a lot younger Northern Ireland was referred to as the Province of Northern Ireland or Ulster. Giving a name to that part of the island of Ireland which has never been part of the Republic of Ireland has never been easy. Likewise Northern Ireland is just about the only ‘country’ in The Commonwealth not to have a national flag (it did from 29 May 1953 to 30 March 1972). But Northern Ireland does, sort of, have its own stamps which in decades past we used to call regionals but now are called country stamps. 

  Today, 3 May 2021, marks the centenary of Northern Ireland as a distinct political entity. On 3 May 1921 the 1920 Government of Ireland Act came into force and northern and southern  Ireland became two separate political entities. The following day, the Lord Lieutenant moved a writ for elections to be held for parliaments in the north and in the south. The two territories have been separate ever since. The Anglo-Irish War, fought between the rebels of the Irish Republican Army and the British security forces lasted until July 1921 when a truce came into force by which time the Northern Ireland parliament had opened guaranteeing a continued British presence on the island of Ireland. Negotiations between members of the rebel southern Irish Parliament, the Dรกil, and the British government began in October 1921 and this lead to the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty on 6 December 1921 whereby the Irish Free State was established as a Dominion of the British Empire and the Dรกil ratified the treaty on 7 January 1922 leading to a split in the Irish republican movement and the ensuing Irish civil war.

  The Northern Ireland centenary, perhaps not surprisingly given all the continuing political complications of the situation in Ireland, even 100 years on, is one of those extremely important anniversaries in the story of Britain that will go without philatelic commemoration from Royal Mail. But we may quickly look at the stamps which have been issued by the British postal service specifically for use in Northern Ireland though they were also made available in the other parts of The United Kingdom.

  ‘Regional’ stamps for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales but not England were introduced on 18 August 1958 in the form of a single 3d ‘deep lilac’ Wilding portrait definitive which also depicted flax flowers and the heraldic ‘Red hand’ of Ulster. The development of the stamp and the others which shortly followed it are detailed beautifully in an article on The Postal Museum internet site and the article reveals that the possibility of issuing stamps for what might then have been called ‘the British regions’ had been first raised in conjunction with the issue commemorating the Silver Jubilee of King George V and then brought up from time to time.

  However it was not until early 1956 that the issue was seriously addressed by the Post Office with Home Office support and on 21 June 1956 the Postmaster-General, Dr Charles Hill, wrote to the Northern Ireland prime minister, Lord Brookeborough, proposing the amending of some postage stamp designs to include regional symbols. Replying on 30 June, Lord Brookeborough replied that, “While we are quite happy with existing arrangements which emphasise the unity of the Kingdom, we would not wish to be the ‘odd man out’ if Scotland and Wales are to have their own special issues’.

  A long complicated process followed which was to lead to the issue of the first Northern Ireland stamp. A Northern Ireland design committee was alert to potential sectarian controversies, an example being the proposition that the Northern Ireland Parliament, known as Stormont, should be depicted on one of the stamps but the subject being difficult for the pro-republic community to accept, the suggestion was rejected. Ah! The importance of politics and symbolism in the stamp album.

  Eventually five symbols were chosen to be used in the designs - the flax plant, the Red (right) hand of Ulster, a Field gate with typical Ulster pillars, the Northern Ireland cost of arms without supporters and the six-pointed crowned star with the Red Hand (the six points representing the six counties of Northern Ireland). The NI stamp committee also recommended five local artists to submit designs - Thomas Collins, Leonard Pilton, William Hollywood, Colin Middleton and Miss T Robinson described as “all people of merit in their particular fields”. All five artists submitted sketches for the designs with the original 3d design eventually being that of William Hollywood, the 6d by Leonard Pilton (depicting flax plants, issued 29 September 1958) and the 1/3d being designed by Thomas Collins (depicting the Red Hand, an Ulster gate and a flax flower, issued 29 September 1958).

  The 3d value was issued with 1 central phosphor band on 9 June 1967 and the design was used in ultramarine for a 4d value issued on 7 February 1966 and with 2 phosphor bands during October 1967. Due to changes in postal rates further changes were made to the 4d stamp - it was issued on chalky paper with no watermark with 2 phosphor bands on 27 June 1968, then in olive-sepia with one phosphor band on  4 September 1968 and then in bright vermilion with 1 band on 26 February 1969. Finally the design was reused but in royal blue for a 5d value and issued on 4 September 1968.

  The design of the 6d value was reused for a 9d value in bronze-green with 2 phosphor bands, issued on 1 March 1967 and that of the 1/3d was reused to produce a 1/6d value in grey-blue with 2 phosphor bands which was also issued on 1 March 1967.

  With the introduction of decimal currency four new stamps were issued for Northern Ireland on 7 July 1971 using the new Machin Head design with the Red Hand symbol on the crowned six pointed star in the following values - 2p and 1/2p (pale magenta), 3p (ultramarine) 5p (greyish violet) and 7 and 1/2p (pale chestnut). With changes in postal rates over subsequent years a large number of new values was released, some in changed colours.

  Earlier in 1971, on 16 June, a set of 3 stamps had been issued depicting paintings by three Ulster artists which commemorated the Ulster’71 festival held to mark the 50th anniversary of Northern Ireland and the establishment of the Stormont parliament. The paintings were:- A Mountain Road by TP Flanagan (3p value), Deer Meadow by Tom Carr (7and 1/2p) and Slieve na brock by Colin Middleton (9p). The Northern Ireland Troubles, as they were called, began in the late sixties and reached the peak in the 1970s as an explosion of political violence took place. The conflict between the two communities of republicanism/Roman Catholicism and Unionism/Protestantism involved shocking acts of violence and terror on both sides and British military and security forces became involved and the acts of violence spilled over into Great Britain as terrorists wreaked havoc wherever they could. The Stormont Parliament was suspended on 30 March 1972 as it proved incapable of restoring order in Northern Ireland. The campaigns of terrorism continued so that in the 1980s the Irish Republican Army killed a British cabinet member, Airey Neave in a bomb explosion in March 1979 and similar killed Earl Mountbatten, the uncle of the Duke of Edinburgh, in August 1979. The IRA attempted to assassinate the British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher and other leading government figures by setting off a bomb explosion at the hotel in which they were staying in Brighton for a Conservative Party conference. It was only in the 1990s that Thatcher’s successor, John Major, was able to open up contacts with the IRA leading to the ‘Good Friday Agreement’ of 10 April 1998 whereby peace was restored to Northern Ireland after three decades of conflict. The Northern Ireland Parliament renamed the Assembly was restored.

  A new series of  4 ‘Country Definitives’ was introduced in Northern Ireland post offices by Royal Mail on 6 March 2001. The designs by Rodney Miller Associattes featured The Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim (2nd Class rate), a patchwork of fields (1st Class), a detail of a slip case (‘E’, European rate) and parian-ware China porcelain (65p). These designs have been used ever since for an ever changing range of new values necessitated by revised postal rates - thus twenty years on from their introduction these designs remain in use.

  Other issues relevant to Northern Ireland include the miniature sheet containing 4 different stamps issued on 11 March 2008 on the subject of ‘Celebrating Northern Ireland’, the designs depicting Carrickfergus Castle,  St Patrick, Queen’s Bridge and Freedom Beacon and the Giant’s Causeway. On the same date a ‘Generic sheet’ was also issued on the ‘Glorious Northern Ireland’  theme containing 20 x 1st Class  Giants Causeway stamps with attached labels.

  We may mention here the lavish set of philatelic products released by Royal Mail on 23 January 2018 to commemorate the then popular television series Game Of Thrones which was made in Northern Ireland, a reflection of the degree to which peace had returned to the formerly troubled part of the United Kingdom. Prior to the issue of this set and accompanying, booklets, sheets and so on. Royal Mail had released weekly single Game Of Thrones Post and Go stamps (Patchwork of fields stamps with attached label) never purchasable as single sheets containing all 10 stamp and excruciatingly difficult for collectors to obtain. 

  Finally we might note that the first stamp to feature a Northern Ireland subject was the 2/6d value of the first high value definitives of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. The stamp featured Carrickfergus Castle and was issued 23 September 1955 and subsequently reissued on paper with different watermarks and so on. When four new high value definitives were issued in 1988 and reissued with the Queen’s profile in gold in 1982, Carrickfergus Castle was again featured on the lowest value (by then, the £1).

  So an important British anniversary once more goes unmarked by Royal Mail but for once, given the potential problems associated with such a stamp issue, perhaps Royal Mail can be forgiven for not giving us a stamp issue to commemorate Northern Ireland’s centenary.