Since the News Letter article was published about the mystery of King William’s stamp collection last Saturday, Ballymena man Robert McAuley has received several phone calls which have helped shed some light on the puzzle.
Robert had speculated that his King William Tercentenary Philatelic Collection may have been a prototype, and perhaps the only one of its kind in existence.
However, it has been confirmed that is not the case, and that the collection was produced in some numbers.
One man from Portadown contacted Robert to say he still had the cheque stub from his purchase of the stamp collection in question.
Robert said: “He told me the cheque was made out for £16.90 which was rather fitting. The recipient was Quest Enterprises who neither of us has been able to trace.”
He added: “I got another call from a guy in Scotland who saw the collection advertised in an Orange magazine in Scotland.
“He’s trying to find the magazine – he thinks he still has it – to see if it has any details of who produced it.
“I’m amazed the amount of people who have got in touch.”
The first day cover collection and its post marks – all dated 12.VII.1990 – are grouped as the Tercentenary Philatelic Collection.
The 300th anniversary collector’s item features 14 first day covers which mark 14 key battles fought by King William from 1689 to 1691.
Orangeman Ed Spence – who got in touch with both Mr McAuley and the News Letter – was able to answer a few questions as to where the album was sold and who might have played a role in making it.
He said: “I bought it around 1990 and it is still as good as the day of purchase.
“As an Orangeman since 1961 and the JLOL before that, I was interested in those type of memorabilia and particularly that year being the 300th anniversary of the battle.”
While more light has been shed on where the album was sold, the person or persons who produced it remains unclear.
Mr Spence said: “I got it from a Mr McBride – I believe that was his name – of the NI Stamp Sales which back then was based at Victoria Street in Belfast which is now the Ulster Scots Agency HQ.
“Also in 1991 the same company sold a similar album of eight first day covers in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. These were sold at £29.75 and were of a limited edition collection of 1,000 copies only.”
He said he was aware of several associated covers brought out by various Orange brethren and lodges via specially prepared postmarks.
Mr Spence said: “A good brother worked in the philatelic branch of Royal Mail and he was able to commission them through the company.”
Royal Mail had previously said it had no association with the first day covers.
A spokesperson said: “The first day covers featured in the images [of Mr McAuley’s collection sent to Royal Mail by the News Letter] were not produced by Royal Mail, as such we would have had no involvement in their production.”
When asked whether they were aware of an Orangemen within Royal Mail who commissioned first day covers through the company the News Letter received no response.
Having viewed images of the collection, An Post said it was responsible for two of the stamps used a number of times throughout it to commemorate the Battle of the Boyne and the Siege of Limerick.
Anne O’Neill from An Post said: “An Post issued two stamps on April 5, 1990 to commemorate the Tercentenary of the Williamite Wars.
“However, the first day cover seems to be one that was made by a collector, not An Post, as there is no ‘La Chead Eisiúna’ on the cancel (a postal marking used to prevent re-use of a stamp), and as far as I am aware there always was.
“Also for a two stamp issue An Post would only have made one official first day cover.”
Orange Order historian Jonathan Mattison said: “I know that there have been a number of occasions when the Orange Order have produced commemorative stamps and first day covers.”
Referring to the Tercentenary Collection, Mr Mattison said: “We have one piece like this in the archives, but to be honest I don’t know much about it.”
He guessed it might have been produced by the GOLI Education Committee in 1990 but said he was trying to find out more information.
If you can help Robert McAuley trace the makers of the collection please ring him on 02870310025.