Postage stamps and postal history of the Isle of Man
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The first official Isle of Man Manx postage stamps were issued on 5 July 1973.
The stamps were issued approximately 50 years after campaigning for them had started.
Stamps had been perceived as promotional tools for the Manx identity. In the absence of stamps, postage labels – some measuring 2 inches by 1.5 inches - were affixed over the rear flaps of envelopes.
Campaigning for stamps in the 1920s led to the first official approaches to the General Post Office between 31 May and 5 June 1930 when the GPO laid the Island’s first submarine telephone cable.
The idea was rejected because of fears that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would want their own stamps too. To promote the fact that the Isle of Man was no longer isolated telephonically, therefore, Tynwald’s Publicity Board produced a postage label depicting a girl making a telephone call; the slogan, ‘A Holiday Call from the Isle of Man.’
The Island’s first experimental airmail service was started by a Railway Air Services Dragon Rapide on 20 August 1934. This operated between Manchester and Belfast. Letters weighing less than two ounces were carried at no extra cost. The first regular airmail service from Liverpool was started on 1 February 1935 by Blackpool and West Coast Air Services Ltd.
The Isle of Man’s first regional postage stamp was issued on 18 August 1958. The 3d deep lilac stamp featured a portrait of the Queen encompassed by a Celtic ring chain. In common with UK practice, it did not bear its country of origin but did depict the Three Legs of Man. The Royal Mail issued it as part of a regional set aimed at satisfying nationalist sentiments in the Island, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, Jersey and Guernsey.
The Manx design was inspired by Isle of Man Art Society chairman, Victor Kneale, who had produced 18 designs to show what could be done. His membership of an Advisory Committee meant exclusion from being the official designer but when self-taught artist John Nicholson was appointed as designer what he produced reflected Kneale’s proposals. Subsequently, Kneale would be the first chairman of Isle of Man Post and Nicholson would design the latter’s first stamps.
British postal strike
The Island’s first officially authorised postage stamps were issued during Britain’s first postal strike (20 January -7 March 1971). Tourist souvenir supplier, Gordon Quirk, launched Post Manninagh on 20 January and was authorised on 27 January, though restricted to deliveries within the island. He adapted illustrated match box covers as stamps, guillotining from their edges words such as ‘Foreign – Average Contents 30.’ Quirk’s first authorised mail deliveries outside the island began on 1 February. His first specifically designed stamp was produced on 15 February. Others followed. Post Manninagh’s first airmail service started on 1 March, six days before the strike ended.
Isle of Man Post Office stamps
After several years of negotiation, the Isle of Man Post Office Authority was launched on 5 July 1973.
Spink and Son Ltd produced the first stamp essays but the Authority preferred to initiate its own designs.
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- Kemp, Nigel P. The Postal Service of the Isle of Man. Batley, W. Yorkshire: Harry Hayes, 1977 ISBN 0-905222-34-2 68p.
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- Ward, Ronald and Brian Leece. Manx Mail: The Postal History of the Isle of Man from early times to 1867. Bulwell, Nottingham: The Postal History Society, 1969 85p.
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