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Folk, fables and foibles the guidebook forgot to mention
  • Fergus Manor

15. Spot the makeover ...



So when you’re out and about, ignore the square steel boxes sitting on poles and girders (they’re the modern An Post version and much deprecated by purists who hanker after the original cast-iron styles) and see if you can collect a full set of monarchs as depicted on extant pre-1922 post-boxes ... the first three photos below


are all in Ennis.DRAFTJS_BLOCK_KEY:62u4s


No, the makeover I have in mind originated in the distant past and just required a lick of paint, Irish-green paint, of course.


In Ireland, as in the, then, mothership (Britain), the late 1850s heralded a revolution in the postal service with the advent of post-boxes and pillar-boxes, the latter being free-standing, pillar-like boxes, often circular, and the former generally fixed to or in another structure. ‘Post-box’, it seems, has evolved as the generic term.




This splendid and ingenious invention of a handy, on-the-street means of safely posting a letter may have been a postal revolution in mainland Britain and Ireland but, in European terms, this was not a new idea for such boxes were already an established part of the landscape in France, Russia and Poland.


Down the years, three British monarchs—Victoria, Edward VII, and George V—were the titular heads of the postal service and thus the crown and their insignia adorned all the red post-boxes in England, Scotland, Wales and, of course, Ireland. When Ireland achieved a measure of independence from Britain in 1922 one of the first acts of the new government was to paint all the red post-boxes green.


Actually that last sentence should read ‘back to green’. Confused?


Well, it’s simple really ... initially post-boxes throughout Britain were painted green (described as a ‘dark bronze green’), not red, and it was not until 1874 (midway through Victoria’s reign) that the process of repainting them in a bright, more conspicuous, red began. It took ten years to complete the makeover and by the mid-1880s every post-box in the kingdom (and that included Ireland at the time) boasted a bright coat of what became known as ‘pillar-box red’.

d girders (they’re the modern An Post version and much deprecated by purists who hanker after the original cast-iron styles) and see if you can collect a full set of monarchs as depicted on extant pre-1922 post-boxes ... the first three photos below are all in Ennis.DRAFTJS_BLOCK_KEY:61g39DRAFTJS_BLOCK_KEY:61g39DRAFTJS_BLOCK_KEY:61g39


And so it was that an independent Ireland repainted them green, a brighter, more Irish green than the green from the earlier Victorian era. Obviously a quick coat of paint was more economical than replacement or grinding off the crown and other lettering.


For the Easter Rising centenary celebrations in 2016 some post-boxes underwent another, albeit temporary, makeover when those close to the Post Office (the iconic GPO building and epicentre of the 1916 Rising) in Dublin’s O’Connell Street were repainted red (as they would have been in 1916) to authenticate the various events to mark the centenary.


At the same time in some parts of Belfast, and in celebration of these same centenary events, a number of post-boxes were painted green. Unlike the repainting in Dublin, this was an unofficial gesture and was more symbolic than historically inaccurate.


In Ennis and other parts of County Clare there remain many post-boxes that still bear the crown and insignia of British monarchs, those who reigned up to 1922—Victoria (1837-1901), Edward VII (1901-1910) and George V (1910-1936). All such post-boxes—free-standing, wall inserts and those fixed to pillars and posts—will have had at least two coats of paint: red, then green. The oldest Victorian ones—those that pre-date the 1874-1884 colour makeover—will, of course, have had at least three coats: dark green, pillar-box red and bright green.


So when you’re out and about, ignore the square steel boxes sitting on poles and girders (they’re the modern AnPost version and much deprecated by purists who hanker after the original cast-iron styles) and see if you can collect a full set of monarchs as depicted on extant pre-1922 post-boxes ... the first three photos below are all in Ennis.




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