Sunday, 10 June 2012

Peter To Rot, Diamond Jubilee And Other New Issues.

In my blog of 15 May 2012, I mentioned the new set of stamps from Kenya which depicts insects of various types. A staggering 100 different stamps are included in the set which consists of 4 sheetlets of 25 stamps each. I think this must be the second biggest commemorative stamp issue in Commonwealth philatelic history (on 13 April 1992, Tanzania issued a set of 120 stamps - 10 sheetlets, each of 12 different stamps - which depicted various papal visits). While I find the high price of this new set to be annoying, now that I have received them, I have to admit that they are absolutely fascinating. Each stamp features a photograph of a different local insect taken by Robert Copeland of the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in Nairobi. The stamps commemorate the 40th anniversary of ICIPE. In 2010, Robert Copeland and a colleague, Andrew Kirk-Spriggs of the Kenyan National Museum, re-discovered the world's rarest fly, the Terrible Hairy Fly, Mormotomyia hirsuta, which had only ever been collected twice before, in 1933 and 1945, and is only found in a single site in Kenya and nowhere else in the world. The fly is effectively wingless which makes it rather a bizarre creature. Sadly, and perhaps surprisingly, the hairy fly is not included in the 100 illustrated species but the set certainly includes some amazing, and rather unnerving-looking creatures and I could not resist depicting some of the most worrying-looking ones below. Pleasingly, not all animals depicted on recent Commonwealth commemorative stamps are quite so unsettling. Who could not help but adore the labrador retriever puppy which was depicted on a sheetlet of 3 stamps (part of a set of 7 "Dogs of the world" stamps and 2 miniature sheets) which was issued by Grenada on 24 April 2012? Montserrat issued its Diamond Jubilee set on 18 April 2012 in the same format as the sets released by Antigua-Barbuda and Grenada. The theme of the Montserrat issue is Queen Elizabeth's coronation which took place on 2 June 1953. In the past few years Papua New Guinea has issued a very large number of stamps of relatively high face value. The sets usually take the form of 4 stamps issued in ordinary sheets, 4 differently designed and/or face valued stamps issued in a miniature sheet and an additional miniature sheet usually containing a single, again different, stamp. About 12 sets are released per year with an approximate cost to the collector of over £20 per set. This is clearly excessive but rather surprisingly most issued stamps have a direct local relevance, often apparently being designed by local designers and they generally make up a collection which tells you a lot about Papua New Guinea, its culture, its wildlife and its history. Sadly a couple of issues per year seem to emanate directly from the New York philatelic agency which handles their stamps and these generally have no relevance to PNG itself (usually aspects of American culture which are likely to appeal to American collectors). Such issues can be ignored but the locally relevant stamps are well worth obtaining despite their cost. One such issue is that which was released on 5 March 2012 which commemorated the centenary of the birth of the Blessed Peter To Rot who was probably born in 1912 at Rakunai in New Britain in New Guinea. His family was closely attached to the Roman Catholic Church and Peter attended St. Paul's College, Taliligap in 1930 and was appointed catechist to the parish of Rakunai in 1933. In January 1942, the Japanese occupied New Britain and interned the European missinaries there and Peter To Rot became responsible for the mission there, leading the people in prayer, baptising and cathechising children and adults, officiating at weddings, teaching, visiting the sick and taking food to internees and prisoners of war. In 1943, the Japanese occupiers became intolerant of the Christian faith and began to restrict To Rot's activities on security grounds. After March 1944, he resisted the new rules that forbade any form of religious observance and built an underground shelter on his property at Taogo and there he held religious services. He particularly resisted the Japanese legalisation of polygamy which the local chiefs were in favour of, and his rejection of it resulted in him being denounced as "malign and uncooperative" with his resulting imprisonment. In June or July 1945 he was murdered by 2 officers of the Japanese military police, assisted by an army doctor who administered a lethal injection to him. His body was buried in the mission cemetery. On 17 January 1995, To Rot was beatified by Pope John Paul II in Port Moresby during the papal visit to Papua New Guinea. The various events of Peter To Rot's life and his beatification by Pope John Paul II are shown on a set of 4 stamps, a sheetlet of 4 different stamps which depict stained-glass windows and a single stamp miniature sheet which were issued on 5 March 2012. The 2 miniature sheets are depicted below. Finally, another Diamond Jubilee set has been issued - 4 stamps and 1 miniature sheet, very similar in design to the issue of The Falkland Islands, released by South Georgia And The South Sandwich Islands on 28 May 2012. Like the Falkland Islands issue, this is a very attractive and well-produced set.

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