Sunday, 22 February 2015

Horned Ruminants

2015: Year of the Ram
So are we in the Year of the Sheep, the Goat or the Ram?  The fact that the Chinese word for all of them is the same has thrown up some interesting discussions, Hong Kong has chosen a cute sheep for their stamp whereas China has an equally appealing goat.  Canada has taken the middle way, their stamp shows a Ram  and, according to the Astrology sites, the element for this years male animal is Wood or to be even more precise it is the Year of the Green Sheep Goat.  Helene L'Heureux spent a year researching this current Lunar Year and it shows in the beautiful image of 3 rams welcoming spring with the colours integrated into the stamp.  The one I show is the international rate postage but in contrast the domestic rate stamp shows a ram charging towards New Year happily shown on Violet Sky's hosting page.  The calligraphy is by Hong Kong born Ngan Siu-Mui.

Of course horned ruminants have appeared many times on Canadian stamps and as I am rather fond of sheep here is
1953: National Wildlife Week
a longhorn.  The engraver is Silas Robert Allen (1888-1958) who worked for the Canadian Bank Note Company in Ottawa engraving his first stamp in 1928 and would go on to create 78 designs in his working life (64 for Canada and some for the Bahamas and Norway). He is a great favourite amongst stamp engraver collectors.
Liechtenstein's Year of the Sheep stamp has a rather nice stained glass appearance (designer: Stefan Eine) and they have also produced a stamp sheet in the shape of a sheep but I have the
Maximum card.  As you can see the traditionally Chinese ornament has an ambiguity to whether they are sheep or goats.
2012: Animals of the Viking Age
When the Norwegian Vikings arrived on the Faroes there was a black goat like sheep on the island, the Dimun.  Unfortunately due to hunting the last surviving one died in the 19th century, however I imagine there are some of its genes present in the island's current population of sheep, who are a particularly hardy breed with a coarse outer coat and soft inner hair, ideal for those famous jumpers.  The artist is Astrid Andreassen a scientific illustrator (specialising in marine animals), stamp designer, artist and craftswomen. You can appreciate her love of textiles from the detail of the sheep's wool on the stamp.   For an interesting chance meeting and some of her work see the Family Adventure Project blog here .

Lastly in lieu of a New Year stamp from China (which I don't posses) here is a suitably flowery green spring stamp
1976: Chinese Country Life
with adorable lambs and their shepherdess.

An entry to the Sunday Stamps II theme of  Lunar New Year Stamps hosted by Violet Sky here 

Sunday, 15 February 2015


I appreciate the romance of stamps but don't have many romantic stamps however this year's rebooted 'Smiler' stamps have come to my rescue with these turtle doves.  It is unlikely that many will receive it on a Valentine Card as it will mainly be used as a personalised stamp but it would be nice teamed with the franking message from Royal Mail

and a delivery of roses
1992: Horticultural Exports
and later perhaps there would be a glass of champagne or alternatively some 
Champagne Roses
2009: 100th Anniversary of the Cinema
A romantic tryst  

2005: Whooper Swans
The gliding swans who bring romance to any riverbank whatever the day and who famously mate for life.

An entry to Sunday Stamps II hosted by Violet Sky, this week's theme 'Valentine Related' here

Sunday, 8 February 2015

The Faroe Run

I am showing the stamps of the 1983  "Old Ships on the Faroe Run" set this week.  The ships have many things in common, they are all British built, all cargo steamships, and wait for it, all carried mail.  The paintings also indicate from the blue flag flying that they are portrayed at the time of  DFDS ownership and of course are sailing under the Danish flag.  The painting above shows the Arcturus (named after one of the brightest stars in the northern hemisphere) which started life as the Victor Emanuel in 1856 plying her trade from the Clyde to the Mediterranean.  When the Danish/Scottish company Koch and Henderson bought her they rechristened it Arcturus.  Most cargo ships would journey to the Faroes in the Spring and Summer season but the Acturus was a sturdy little ship and made five to seven trips a year and from 1858-1870 was running the mail service to the Faroes and Iceland.  Her small size was the only problem so it was rebuilt with a third mast added and a new steam engine.  By this fact we know that as the picture portrays her with 2 masts it must be before 1872 and before her rebuild. 

In 1887 on a trip from Copenhagen to Danzig the Arcturus collied with the SS Savona and sank off Fasterbo.  No lives were lost as the Savona picked everyone up.

My personal favourite is this painting of the Laura in a swelling sea with the crew lined up and altering (or whatever the naval expression is) the sails.  Unfortunately I don't know who the artists were of any of the paintings (the stamp designer is P Hatting). 

The Laura was built in 1882 and was bought by a Captain Peter Mærsk Møller, in 1886 for the Copenhagen to Faroe run (stopping at Edinburgh on the way).  I did a double take at that name for Mærsk Møller, is one of the biggest shipping companies in the world and it turns out that the purchase of the Laura was the start of  Captain Peter Mærsk Møller shipping career, his first steam ship.  (The middle name of Mærsk is from his mother's family name and in Danish means marshland).  The Laura was wrecked off Iceland in 1910.
Lastly here is the iron hulled Thyra built in 1866 and used in voyages from Newcastle to Copenhagen and the Baltic ports.  What a pity DFDS no longer run this route, I've only ever been to the Netherlands on their ships from Newcastle. In 1876 she was rebuilt in Copenhagen and continued to journey from there to Leith, Faroes and Iceland, later captured by the Germans in World War 1, released and then eventually broken up in Hamburg, Germany in 1924. (Full history here)

An entry to Sunday Stamps II theme of Ships and Boats hosted by Violet Sky here.        

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Water Festival

The Isle of Man officially issued this miniature sheet commemorating the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant on 3rd June 2012, the actual day the pageant took place, which explains why the photographs on the stamps do not reflect the weather of the day itself. June would normally be expected to be pleasant and flower filled month but 2012 turned out to to be the second wettest year on record and June surpassed that by being the wettest June, ever. The day was grim, wet, misty and cold, some spectators were even taken to hospital with symptoms of hypothermia.  The Queen however was made of sterner stuff
and stood on the 'Spirit of Chartwell' for the whole journey.   This motor vessel had been donated as the Royal Barge for the occasion and enhanced and decorated with flowers and gold.  The boat however that epitomised the royal journeys of the past centuries down the Thames was the 
gilded  'Gloriana', the lead vessel of the water pageant.  This was privately commissioned and specially built for the occasion at a cost of £500,000 and then given to the Queen.  The name I assume refers back to the first Queen Elizabeth, one of her epithets after the defeat of the Spanish Armada was Gloriana, the name of the Faerie Queen in Edmund Spencer's poem.

Every type of ship and boat imaginable was on the Thames as part of the largest flotillas ever assembled of more than a 1000 vessels from all corners of the Commonwealth (a great occasion to test your knowledge of flags).   
The Isle of Man contingent included this lifeboat from the Isle of Man Steam Packet ship the 'Lady of Mann' (broken up in 1971) which had been converted into a cabin cruiser. Her dilapidated state in 2009 meant she was in danger of being scrapped however the seller in Essex was a Steam Packet enthusiast so he wouldn't release her to anyone who wouldn't try to preserve her.  The buyer, Matt Cain was that man, and based nearby in Windsor and so now she is "sitting pretty on the Thames".  (I especially like the background on the stamp of the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament)  His father and uncle are both Manxmen but that was not the only reason he wanted to preserve this little boat but due to the fact that his Grandfather had been rescued from the beaches of Dunkirk, not by the Lady of Mann but by a Belgium fishing boat, however he remembered the Lady being there and the sense of hope and home she gave him.
Lastly it couldn't be the Isle of Man without a Viking longboat and this is the 'Vital Spark' one of four replicas used in the annual World Championship Viking Longboat Races held in Peel.  Built of fibreglass and wooden gunwales she is built for speed.  Just think what the Vikings could have done with a bit of fibreglass.

An entry to Sunday Stamps II hosted by Violet Sky, this weeks theme is - Water - more of the wet stuff here       

Friday, 30 January 2015

Musical Mounties

The mounties may ride off into the sunset accompanied by music in films but here they are performing one of their musical rides, the first of which was performed at Regina barracks in 1887 and since 1904 there have been regular public performances across Canada.

The police officers will stay with the musical ride for three years, this means there is an annual rotation of 33 percent of the riders although there are 32 riders and horses in the team so I'm not sure how that works out, perhaps there is a spare.  There is an emphasis on the Royal Canadian Mounted Police site on the ability to meet the horses and riders but even if one were to miss the show and that opportunity then a tour of their Ottawa centre is on the cards - stables, tack room and of course, The Mountie Shop.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

On the Rails

2012: 150th Anniversary of the Railway
The Allegro high speed train crosses a Finnish lake on its way from Helsinki and over the border onwards to St Petersburg and Finland Station (Russian stations are always called after their destination).  The journey will only take three and a half hours.  Those on board will have seen the giant statue portrayed on the stamp as they entered the portals of the Central Railway Station in Helsinki, for it is one of two sets that flank the entrance and the lamps they hold will shine down in darkness (which in winter I think will last a long time).  Depending on the source Helsinki Station is described as Art Deco, Finnish Art Nouveau or Finnish Romanticism but that is unimportant as it is considered one of the great railway stations in the world. I'm a bit of a collector of railways stations but what would also attract me about this one is that it is dressed in pink granite.  Designed by Eliel Saarinen in 1909 and opened in 1919 it is Finland's busiest station. The statues are by Emil Wikstrom whose house where he lived by lake and forest is now a museum.  Appropriate then that the picture is of a still clear day with a beautiful reflection of forest and train.   
2010: Great Railway Journeys
This stamp too has a 'reflection' but of shadow in the heat of an Australian day as it crosses the deep heart of the country.  This is the famous Ghan train which links Adelaide in the south to Darwin in the north travelling 1851 miles and taking 54 hours with a four hour stopover at Alice Springs.   The card below shows the train as it travels through the MacDonnell Ranges which run east and west of Alice Springs in the Northern Territories..
The name 'The Ghan' is a diminutive of  the nickname The Afghan Express which is a nod to the Afghan camel drivers who arrived in the 19th century to help find a way to travel to the country's interior. The card is too 'busy' to show the cancel to any great effect but it is of a train riding the rails. 

An entry to Violet Sky's Sunday Stamps II theme of - Shaped Stamps or Australian stamps here

Sunday, 18 January 2015


My first thought was of Belgium when seeing this week's theme of 'organisations' because they seem to have issued a lot of stamps on the subject, or maybe I have accidentally accumulated them all.  The stamp shown above was issued for the 60th Anniversary of the Workers International Sports Organisation in 1973 and shows the poster for the first international meeting in Ghent in  1913.  The war interrupted further meetings until they reconvened afterwards to put on the Olympiads as a socialist alternative to the Olympics. The red flag was used rather than national flags as portrayed on the stamp.  Another war once again interrupted the Olympiads when the 1943 meeting in Helsinki had to be cancelled.
As a contrast to the socialist ideals of  Workers Sports here is the 300th anniversary of the Royal Guild and Knights of St Michael in 1963.
Of course I can't miss out postal organisations so here is a 19th Century Mail Coach which appeared on the 1963 'Stamp Day' stamp, overprinted in 1966 with the emblem of the Federation of Belgian Philately Circles (top right).  I bet the stage coach driver galloping over muddy roads of the 19th Century would love a smooth one like this on the next stamp
1973: Anniversary of the VAB Motoring Organisation
1970: "New UPU Headquarters"
The road may ultimately lead to the 'new' Universal Postal Union Building in Berne.
Whose centenary Belgium celebrated in 1974 showing the US Postmaster General Montgomery Blair who called the first meeting in Paris which laid down the general principals of a union.  The task was completed by the German Heinrich von Stephan in 1874 with a conference in Bern.
1970: Anniversary of the National Housing Association
Lastly is a stamp showing a sculpture called 'The Mason' by George Minne (1866-1941) a Belgium artist famous for "his idealised depictions of man's inner spiritual conflict" which was completed in 1893 and now lives in the Musee d'Orsay in Paris,  After Belgium's brave defence of its country in 1914 Minne was one of the thousands of refugees who fled to the Netherlands, France and Britain.  Somehow Minne ended up living in Aberystwyth, Wales for the duration of the war.

An entry to Sunday Stamps theme - Organisations/Special Events - hosted by Violet Sky here