History told by postcards and postage stamps to celebrate NI 100

Every time Portadown philatelist and postcard-collector John Proctor shares stories about stamps and cards here, Roamer gets side-tracked!

Friday, 4th June 2021, 12:38 pm
Old postcard of Carrick-a-Rede marking NI 100

The online display marking Northern Ireland’s centenary that he mentioned on Wednesday’s page is no exception.

John is secretary of the Portadown and District Philatelic Society and during the coronavirus pandemic his Portadown colleagues, along with members from the Lisburn and North of Ireland Philatelic Societies, have held a virtual online display every Friday.

Whilst ‘A Perforated Ulster’ is the (excellent!) long-running satirical comedy show by Radio Ulster’s Hole in the Wall Gang, it’s also an excellent description of the way local stamps and cards illustrate and celebrate Northern Ireland’s unique story - its people, places, culture and history.

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Postcard of Narrow Water Castle in NI 100 online display

(Particularly as Irish-man Henry Archer invented the Post Office’s first ever stamp perforating machine in 1848!)

The majestic pomp and splendour of the State Opening of the Northern Ireland Parliament in 1921; the official opening of Stormont in 1932; the signing of The Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985 and the Devolved Government in 1999 - all these historic occasions were marked and commemorated by stamps and postcards, some shown here on Wednesday.

The intriguing tale of the Irish Moiled Cow, depicted on a specially issued stamp and envelope in March 1984, was also recounted - the rarest remaining indigenous breed of Irish cattle and the only surviving livestock native to Northern Ireland.

But there’s much, much more in the NI 100 display.

Stamp showing Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge to celebrate NI 100

Marking British Rural Architecture in 1970, with stamps issued about historic buildings all over the UK, is the iconic Ulster Thatch.

The 1/6 pence stamp depicts the Linen weaver’s thatched cottage from Waringstown, County Down, reconstructed in the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.

Celebrating the centenary of the Royal National Rose Society in June 1976 were local stamps depicting two ‘home-grown’ roses - ‘Elizabeth of Glamis’ and ‘Grandpa Dickson’, raised in Northern Ireland by the famous multi-award winning McGredy and Dickson families.

Britain’s National Trust properties were celebrated on postage stamps in 1981, so of course our Giant’s Causeway appeared (not for the first time) on both a 22p stamp and a first day cover.

When the Royal Mail focused on British Army Regiments in 1983, the Irish Guards featured on a 28p stamp showing two soldiers holding rifles, one dressed in the first regimental uniform and the other in the modern uniform.

The first day cover showed the guards on parade with their Irish wolfhound mascot proudly leading the regimental band.

British Landscapes were celebrated in 1966, with a 6d stamps of the Vale of Glenarriff.

A number of paintings by Prince Charles HRH The Prince of Wales were reproduced on postage stamps in 1994 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his investiture.

There was a painting of Castell y Waun (Chirck Castle), in Wales and panoramic scenes of Ben Arkle in Scotland, Deringham in England and Dolwyddelan in Wales.

But the 30p stamp was Prince Charles’s wonderfully evocative painting of the Mourne Mountains.

John Proctor tells me the original painting is hanging in Hillsborough Castle.

Prince Charles, by the way, has followed in the footsteps of his great, great, great-grandmother Queen Victoria, who was also a keen amateur painter.

St John’s Point Lighthouse is included in a 1998 series of stamps celebrating the UK’s most famous lighthouses.

A 27p stamp depicting the spectacular coast road just outside Portrush was issued to celebrate British Coastlines in 2002.

Great British Cathedrals were marked in 2008 with a range of magnificent buildings, the 48p stamp showing the interior of Saint Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast.

I mentioned at the start of today’s page that all these stamps and cards got me side-tracked! This was because of two special series of stamps issued in 2011 and 2012 collectively called “An ‘A’ to ‘Z’ Philatelic Tour of the UK”

The first series on 13 October 2011 was hailed as the Royal Mail’s “dramatic 26-stamp, alphabetical odyssey around the UK that features iconic landmarks across all four countries.”

The first 12 stamps went from ‘A’ to ‘L’.

‘A’ was for Angel of the North, the 66-feet-tall steel angel sculpture with a wingspan of 177 feet, designed by Antony Gormley and located just outside Gateshead.

‘L’ was for Lindisfarne Priory, the famous monastery on a tidal island off England’s north-east coast, also known as Holy Island.

And ‘C’ was for Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, County Antrim, made of planks and wires, originally for salmon fishermen to gain access but now for thousands of tourists every year -when there’s no pandemic.

The UK ‘A’ to ‘Z’ second series of stamps, from ‘M’ to ‘Z’, issued on 10 April 2012, began with Manchester Town Hall and included a very beautiful 1st Class Stamp showing Narrow Water Castle, in Warrenpoint, County Down.

When John Proctor told me about the ‘A’ to ‘Z’ series I was particularly side-tracked wondering about the last three stamps in the alphabet.

“Station X Bletchley Park, York Minster and London Zoo,” he explained.

If anyone feels Belfast Zoo should have been included, London’s big animal enterprise is properly prefixed by ZSL, standing for Zoological Society of London!

Readers wanting to view the online NI 100 stamp and card display should contact [email protected] and as I mentioned on Wednesday, this year’s Portadown Stamp Exhibition and Collectors Fair will be held on the last Saturday in October - lockdown permitting.

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