Lanarkshire Philatelic Society


"The Irish Question"


Colin Breddy


The Lanarkshire Philatelic Society enjoyed a fascinating evening last Friday (29th February) as Colin Breddy attempted to answer "The Irish Question".

The first display of the evening, however, was not a question but an interesting pre stamp postal history regarding the postage of mail between Ireland and Britain before 1840 (when postage stamps came into use).

In the very early days pre-paid letters from Ireland to Scotland were routed via London! A letter from Limerick to Inverness would travel from Limerick to Dublin – to Holyhead via packet (boat) – to London, to Edinburgh, to Inverness. In 1711 an Act set the rate of the packet (boat) between Donaghadee and Portpatrick and this became the route for Scottish Mail. Now a letter from Cork to Orkney would travel to Donaghadee – to Portpatrick and then over to Edinburgh before travelling north to Orkney. Many different postage routes between Ireland and various parts of Britain were displayed and a very helpful little map on each page tracked out the given route.

A complication arose when a split appeared between the Irish and British Post Offices and postage rates had to be paid to different administrations which used different coinage values + an extra ½d paid for the packet boat journey between the two countries.

In 1813 another additional ½d was applied within Scotland for mail carried by a 4-wheel mail coach to defray toll road expenses.

In the second display the ‘Irish Question’ was raised. Between 1784 and 1810 the name ‘IRELAND’ was hand stamped on mail travelling between the two countries and the reason for this is still uncertain although it is thought to be connected with the fact that this was applied to mail that was not prepaid. It was paid by the recipient and thus the British PO received the money!    

Did this help to ensure that the Irish PO received their share of the money? That remains the question. The handstamp of IRELAND was in varying sizes and colours – it was generally 45mm in length, sometimes 57mm and 66mm and on rare occasions it appeared in a 68mm length!


In giving the Vote of Thanks, Ian McPherson remarked on the amazing research involved in creating the wonderful display which had intrigued and interested everyone.