Hosted by the Shropshire Philatelic Society
Tuesday 11th March 2008 sees the third issue in the 'Celebrating' series; a new miniature sheet celebrating the Northern Ireland region of the United Kingdom. In this time when we have had a sense of stability in the peace process and over one year of devolved Government, it is the turn of Northern Ireland to be celebrated by the issue of a miniature sheet entitled, 'Celebrating Northern Ireland'.
The sheet was designed by Silk Pearce and is printed in lithography by De la Rue, unlike the previous two sheets which were printed in gravure. The presentation pack is printed by Walsall. The sheet carries four stamps of all-new design: two 1st class small type definitive stamps and two larger commemorative type 78p stamps set against a background of traditional rolling fields about Cushendun, Northern Ireland.
Carrickfergus Castle has always played an important part in the history of Northern Ireland. It is one of the largest and oldest of the Irish Castles and was built by the Anglo-Norman invader, John-De Courcy, on a rocky promenade on the Antrim coast within Belfast Lough. The castle remained as a Garrison until 1928 (representing around 800 years of military history) and still intact remains open to visitors today. Carrickfergus Castle has featured on a number of high value stamps during the past 50 years.
Saint Patrick is depicted in the foreground and snakes in the background in the first 78p value. The stamp was designed by Claire Melinsky.
Legend tells us of how Saint Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland. He was brought as a slave from Roman Britain and worked as a sheep herder in County Antrim and County Down. He escaped back to his family but legend tells us of his calling to return to Ireland were he used shamrocks to outline the concept of Trinity to the Irish people.
Giant's Causeway - Legend and tales are strong in Northern Ireland and one of note is the story of Fionn Mac Cumhaill's causeway, were he constructed a stone causeway from the North Antrim coast to Mull in Scotland to duel with a Scottish giant. However, having crossed the sea he saw the size of his opponent and retreated to Ireland where he dressed as a baby and asked his wife to tuck him in to the cot. The Scottish giant had followed Fionn back to Ireland and on seeing the size of the apparent 'baby' fled back to Scotland. The causeway has featured on some of the recent Northern Ireland definitives and again appears on the second 1st class stamp in this miniature sheet.
Queen's Bridge - A further legendary character is the 'hoop' lady or the 'Angel of Thanksgiving' on the Queen's Bridge in Belfast. The second 78p value is based on a photograph by Tony Pleavin which shows both the bridge and the artistic monument known locally as the peace monument (a symbol of the move away from the City's troubled past) standing tall (left side of the stamp) at the heart of Laganside and is part of regeneration at Lanyon Place.
The angel stands on a large globe which has marks to depict each of the locations on the globe to which the city exported its products. Queen's Bridge connected County Down and County Antrim and was a route to and from the ship yard during its years of success. The ship yard constructed a ship per week during the Second World War, and played an extensive part in the success of the local troops. The ship yard is probably most famous for the Titanic which was constructed in its largest dry dock. As they say in Belfast – 'it was all right when it left here!'