A George V Telegraph Form

Used telegraph forms from this era, bearing postage stamps, should not exist in the public domain. These would have been retained by the Post Office for three months after dispatch in case of query and then destroyed. High value stamps would normally have been used on overseas telegraphs, which were handled by the Private Telegraph Companies (at this time the Postmaster General’s monopoly only extended to inland telegrams) and it is known stamps were removed from these before the forms were passed on the Post Office (see my article on "surreptitious removal"). Complete overseas forms did ‘disappear’ after having been sent, but before being passed to the Post Office, but none have appeared on the philatelic market, merely having had the stamps removed from them. Inland forms were never out of the Post Office’s possession and there seem to have been no ‘escapes’ of inland forms, at least until the Queen Elizabeth era.

However for many years I had heard rumours that one inland form did exist which had been wafted out of a window at the main Post Office in Dublin after it had been set on fire during ‘The Troubles’ and later picked up in the street. Whether this actually exists I have no idea, but a used form in my collection may provide the basis for this rumour.

This form bears a 9d agate and was handed in at the Four Courts (Headquarters of the Irish Judicial system) in Dublin on 22 April 1916, a Saturday. Two days later at mid-day on Easter Monday the 1916 Rising began when rebel forces occupied a number of major Government buildings in Dublin including the Post Office and the Four Courts so this form would have been in the building at the time of occupation, which lasted for most of the following week. For some reason, unknown so far as I can ascertain, a very small number of forms were reputedly thrown out of a window at some time during the occupation and picked up in the street. My form must therefore come from this ‘release’.

I have been told one other form exists, which I have not seen, but apparently it refers to ‘trains running (or not running?) on Monday and is reputed to be the signal that the Rising would take place on the Monday (it had originally been planned for Sunday). In a wild flight of fancy I wondered if my form also had some hidden message as it was asking if ‘butter’ (bullets?) had been sent by rail the previous day. However when reality returned I realised my form was addressed to Twomileborris, a small village in a very agricultural area of Southern Ireland, and that the addressee was the local Co-op, so it really is only a request from a local wholesaler asking ‘where’s my butter’! Disappointing, but still associated with a momentous moment in Irish history.

Since the above was written, a further form from the ruins of the Four Courts has appeared. This bears a 3d and 6d to make up the 9d rate sent on the 22nd April to Ballaghaderreen.