One hundred years of our history gets wide-ranging approval

There have been a number of references here recently to Northern Ireland’s on-going centenary celebrations - NI 100 - with a promise that postage stamps would soon be featuring.

Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 6:00 am
In celebration of the Irish Moiled Cow

“I am sending you some pages from a recent display to celebrate the centenary” John Proctor’s e-mail began, “there are over 80 pages” he added.

John is Secretary of the Portadown and District Philatelic Society, whose annual Stampex and Collectors fair in Portadown Town Hall has been mentioned on this page more than occasionally, highlighting the awesome variety of postage stamps exhibited, along with old post cards, first day covers, bank notes, medals and coins.

For the past 12 months, due to Covid-19 restrictions, the Portadown collectors have been co-ordinating with the Lisburn and North of Ireland Philatelic Society members, organising an online virtual display every Friday.

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Commemorating the opening of the Ulster Parliament Buildings

Today John is sharing some of the exhibits here marking the ongoing NI 100 centenary programme, which the whole of the UK’s postal service has been celebrating.

During April and May, here and in England, Wales and Scotland, there has been a special hand-stamp (the inked postmark on envelopes, sometimes called ‘franking’) marking the centenary with the slogan ‘Our Story in the Making - Northern Ireland Beyond 100’.

Along with the commemorative post-mark, the postage stamps and cards in the centenary display mostly depict “local places, people and events” John explained.

Little or nothing has been omitted from the vast range of local themes and topics included.

ouvenir commemorative cover marking the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement

No better place to begin, perhaps, than the State Opening of the Northern Ireland Parliament by the King and Queen on 22 June 1921.

There’s a magnificent postcard captioned ‘Their Majesties at the Ulster Hall.’

Before the pomp and glory of the formal ceremony, HM King George V and Queen Mary arrived in the city centre in a magnificent open carriage drawn by four white horses with top-hatted riders and footmen.

The card shows lots of bunting and a canopy over the entrance to Ulster Hall.

There’s a second carriage behind the King and Queen’s carriage, police guards on horses, a guard of honour (four or five deep) on the footpath outside the Ulster Hall and police standing at attention with guns, in front of massive crowds of onlookers.

More than a few bowler hats were being waved in the air.

The procession passed the Albert Memorial Clock, draped in flags, the King and Queen’s carriage followed by a police escort on horseback.

Another of the special centenary exhibits marks the official opening of the Northern Ireland Parliament Buildings by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales on 16 November 1932.

It’s a first day souvenir cover, with a drawing of Stormont on the envelope.

The one and a half old-pence stamp is postmarked with the date, proclaiming ‘Ulster Parliament Buildings, Opening Day.’

Staying with politics, a souvenir commemorative cover dated 15 November 1985 is postmarked ‘Hillsborough’.

There are three stamps on the envelope, and a black and white profile picture of Sir Edward Carson captioned “We Will Not Have Home Rule.”

The Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed on 15 November 1985 at Hillsborough Castle by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the Irish Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald, commemorated by this special cover.

More recently from the realm of politics was Northern Ireland Devolution Day, 2 December 1999, the first sitting of the Northern Ireland Government since 28 March 1972.

Bearing the beautifully decorative £3 Carrickfergus Castle postage stamp and two ordinary little 19p stamps, the Royal Mail Special Delivery envelope was posted in Parliament Buildings, Stormont, described on the envelope as “a temporary Sub Office of Castle Place, Belfast.”

Roamer never knew that Stormont two-timed as a sub-Post Office, nor had I ever heard of an Irish Moiled Cow till I perused the NI 100 commemorative philatelic display.

One of a number of first day covers of British Cattle issued on 6 March 1984, Northern Ireland’s 31p stamp depicted the Moiled Cow, with a painting of the cow and a postmark bearing its profile on the commemorative envelope.

The postmark explained - ‘The Irish Moiled Cattle Society. Founded 1926, Ballynahinch, County Down.’

The story behind the stamp is intriguing.

Irish Moiled Cattle are an ancient breed that came close to extinction in the early 1980s when numbers declined to a mere 30 calves and only two herds in the whole world.

Today, thanks to the hard work and dedication of the Irish Moiled Cattle Society and the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, numbers have increased dramatically though are still quite small.

Moiled is an Irish word meaning ‘round headed’, applied to the cattle because they haven’t any horns.

Thus they are great for small holdings and family farms as well as being hardy and producing high quality milk and meat in poor grazing conditions.

It’s the rarest surviving indigenous breed of Irish cattle and the only surviving livestock native to Northern Ireland.

Thank you to John Proctor and his philatelist friends for today’s wonderful stamps and cards, and if anyone wants to see their Friday online display, contact John on [email protected]

He also tells me that the Portadown Stamp Exhibition and Collectors Fair, usually held at the end of September each year, will be held on the last Saturday of October this year - lockdown permitting.

And there’ll be more from the NI 100 centenary philatelic display here soon.

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