Flea Market Love Letters
Were Ireland's Post Boxes always Green?
In today's blog we'll take a look at the pillar post boxes of Ireland and explore their history. Were they always that shade of Green? In short, no. Read on for more about how the earliest cast iron pillar boxes started their reigns in Ireland.
"Where Can I Post My Postcards?"
Recently, we took a road trip to the West of Ireland (first time out of Dublin since 2019!) and I was so excited to post postcards from the trip, from local post boxes. Imagine my dismay, when on the third and final day I had my cards written and stamped ready to go when the shopkeeper of a store said the nearest place to post letters was the nearest post office.
I decided to save the postcard beauts I had found in a bookshop in Westport, Co. Mayo to post from Dublin. Call it naive but I had a romantic notion of finding the green of Dublin post boxes spotting the beautiful landscapes of the West. I wondered if it was because of the population of Dublin and post box density? So that got me thinking about the history of the post box in Ireland and just why I couldn't find one in the West.
The Greening of the Post Boxes:
According to this 2017 Irish Times article post boxes appeared in Ireland in the 19th Century. In fact, it was 1840 with the "penny post" in Ireland and the U.K. Previously letters were charged on a "sliding scale" having to do with distance! Remember, there was a time to receive a letter that you had to pay rather than to send it.
Post was so popular in Dublin that for a time these "double" slot style boxes were popular, with one side for "Dublin" and the other for other locations! Delineated of course in the Irish language of Gaelic.
The iconic red "pillar" post boxes started appearing around the country in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Read that? All around the country! Sources indicate that the most "original" pillar post boxes outside of Dublin today, are in County Wexford. Otherwise over time the post boxes have been replaced with newer models, perhaps set into walls or in smaller villages by the post office itself. In 1922 Ireland became a Free State from the United Kingdom the question arose: What to do with the red post boxes? Why ... paint them green!
That's why a number of Irish post boxes have "GR" (George Rex) -- which can be dated to 1910 to the 1930s -- or "VR" (Victoria Regina) stamps.
Prior to 1984 "An Post", when the national postal service was founded, different styles of post box appeared like this inset wall style from up the road here in Dublin. The "P&T" stands for "Post & Telegraphs". Newer, post 1984 post boxes are likely to feature the An Post Logo. While the style and stamping varies post box to post box, one thing remains consistent: the green!
Though it wasn't always. In the 20th Century when the oldest pillar boxes were being repurposed historians say that the greens varied from village to village. Whatever was on hand, we suppose! But now it is safe to say that the iconic green post box of Ireland is recognizable and a beacon of Irish-ness for those who know its interesting and resourceful history.
Here's three (!!!) on a busy street in Dublin, by several offices which would normally be bustling during non-COVID times. It begs the question: How much post are the Irish still sending? It's endearing to know that almost two hundred years ago the need for post boxes brought them to the Island and they're still being used today.
And now I know all this, next time we're out of the City I'll have to be a bit more eager in my hunt for the rare gem of a green An Post box. Armed with this knowledge though, that they're out there, I have every faith we'll find some beauties in the "wild" someday!
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