Tuesday, May 19, 2015

'"Ulster 71" Paintings'

If you've any familiarity with GB stamps you'll recognise these as the first decimal commemoratives. I'd turn the page in Collect British Stamps after poring over the first decimal definitives, and come across these with their muted colours and vaguely foreboding name.

About 35 years later it's occurred to me to look up what 'Ulster 71' actually was. I'd assumed it was some kind of innocuous art show, but it was actually the 50th anniversary celebrations of Northern Ireland, unfortunately organised just as it was all kicking off over there. Described by one search result as 'Ulster's ill-timed jubilee'.

It seems these are 3 paintings by Northern Irish artists. Sadly, the Northern Irish government didn't like these stamps when they previewed them, and asked for them to be scrapped and replaced by one with a picture of the Ulster 71 Exhibition, or 'a factory', but it was too late.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

First use of the pound sign

Anyone who, like me, has spent a cross half hour looking for the first historical use of the pound sign (£ - the stylised L used to represent pounds sterling/GBP) will find the best answer on the Royal Mint Museum site.

The earliest example they know about is from January 1661, and it was apparently in common use by the time the Bank of England was founded in 1694.