Today is my wife’s birthday. At her request, I hasten to add that she is a much younger person than me. We went to a small village in the “Republic”. Intention to have a nice lunch.
As you may know, I collect Irish stamps. Because thats the kinda dynamic, crazy guy that I am.
And today I called in a Post Office to pick up a single 60cent stamp issued to commemorate the Centenary of the Irish Citizen Army. At the end of last year the Centenary of the Irish Volunteers was commemorated and in April this year another stamp to mark the Centenary of Cumann an MBan will be issued.
I am not a great fan of First Day Covers. I consider them to be souvenirs rather than genuinely postally used stamps.
Anyway today, 23rd January I called into a village post office to get the new stamp. I was totally shocked when the post office clerk told me that the issue had been cancelled. Seemingly a last minute instruction from the General Post Office in Dublin. No reason given.
Just by way of confirmation, I went into the post office in another village.
I did manage to get the following information.
The stamp was due to be issued today.
First thing this morning, sub-postmasters all over the Republic were instructed not to sell the new stamp. The sub-postmaster did not know the reason. It was in her experience unprecedented (actually there IS a near similar situation in 1995). Possibly it was just a deferral. Possibly a printing error.
Certainly there is no reason to think it was a political decision. The annual Stamp Programme is agreed at least three years in advance.
The post office clerk SHOWED me the embargoed stamps.
Sheets were delivered yesterday. Under seal. There is as always, a very prominent instruction “NOT TO BE SOLD BEFORE 23rd JANUARY 2014”.
Of course the problem with last minute instructions not to sell the stamps…is that some will “escape” either by accident or design. It is more than likely that a small post office in (say) West Cork or East Clare wont receive or misunderstand the instruction.
If thats the case, then there will be a few hundred stamps which should NOT have been issued.
And that makes them valuable if the stamps are TOTALLY withdrawn.
If the issue date is merely postponed, it means that “dated” stamps are a nice curiosity. …a nice stamp to have and while attracting a premium, not especially valuable.
So what happened?
Well the story is actually on the website of An Post.
The programme was approved and the stamp design approved.
The design…which I have seen …is a group of Irish Citizen Army personnel and a prominent ICA officer…Captain Jack White.
The ICA was formed as a consequence of the Dublin Lock Out. And Jack White, a former British officer in the Boer War was one of the main organisers. And the problem is that a prominent academic at NUIG (Liam? Keohane) has said that the person on the stamp is NOT Captain Jack White.
So understandably An Post has had to withdraw the stamp.
Whether it is deferred or turns out to be permanent is embarrassing because of course these things are subject to a high degree of scrutiny.
There is strangely a “Northern” connexion. Jack White was a North Antrim man. Indeed a Protestant but threw himself into Socialism in the early part of the 20th Century.
Ironically he had no direct part in the Easter Rising of 1916 but was actually briefly imprisoned in the aftermath. He had tried to mobilise British coal miners to strike in support of James Connolly. This was of course during World War One.
White is one of those maverick figures in Irish history. I would categorise him as a socialist internationalist, rather than a nationalist. He certainly fought in the republican side in the Spanish Civil War.
White actually settled back in the Ballymena area of County Antrim.
I bet you never realised that Stamp Collecting was this …er…interesting.
You will all be delighted to know that some day I might tell you about the Great Stamp Collecting Controversy of 1995.