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Herm Island and its Anti-Malaria Stamps by Roger Cichorz

Amongst the 'thematic' issues produced by Herm Island were Anti-Malaria sets                                                        

This article was originally published in the Channel Islands Reporter, August 1983 and is reproduced with the permission of the author  

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Postal History of Herm and Genesis of its Local Stamps

Herm Island is located in the English Channel about three miles east of Guernsey, halfway between that island and Sark .  Herm is approximately 1˝ miles long from north to south and over half a mile wide from east to west, with a coastline of about 4˝ miles at high water.  A small harbour faces Guernsey, and clustered around it is what passes for the Island village where the White House Hotel, a restaurant, the piazza that houses the Post Office and shops, the Mermaid Tavern, and a row of cottages are located.

Herm’s recorded postal history began during the tenancy of Compton Mackenzie, the famous author and novelist, who lived on Herm from 1920.  During the tenancy of Mr Mackenzie, there was no post office on Herm and all mail was placed in a locked bag and transported to Guernsey for posting.  Mr Mackenzie’s tenancy was succeeded in 1923 by Sir Percival Lea Dewhurst Perry (later Lord Perry), the Chairman of Ford’s, who remained on Herm until 1938.  Because of Lord Perry’s large staff, the British GPO established, in what is now the Mermaid Tavern, a Post Office which functioned as a sub-office of Guernsey .  It opened 1 May 1925 and closed 30 November 1938 because of a decline in the number of residents and resultant lack of business.  Thereafter all mail was once again posted in Guernsey .

In 1946 the States of Guernsey Agricultural Committee purchased Herm from the Crown and leased the Island to Mr A G Jefferies.  In 1948, as part of his efforts to exploit the tourist potential for Herm, Mr Jefferies approached the British postal authorities with a request to have the sub-office reopened or, failing that, to have an official letter box installed and regular collections of mail made.  Both of these requests were refused by the GPO on the grounds that the population of Herm was insufficient to justify such actions.  After being refused official postal facilities, Mr Jefferies decided to carry the mails in his own motor boats.  Following the example of Lundy, the island in the Bristol Channel that has issued stamps (carriage labels) since 1929, Mr Jefferies arranged to issue special stamps for collection of his carrier fees and, accordingly, approached Charles H Coker of the Guernsey Press Company Ltd to submit a stamp design. 

When the design and colour choice had been finalised, Mr Jefferies submitted it to the British Postmaster General who objected to the inclusion of the word ‘postage’ (prohibited on carrier labels by GPO regulations).  It was early in 1949 that the GPO finally consented to permit production of Herm adhesives if the offending word was removed from the design.  Mr Coker began production of Herm’s first issue of local stamps, termed the ‘map’ definitives, which were officially issued on 26 May 1949.  Mr Jefferies died in 1949 and the Herm lease was transferred to Major and Mrs A G (‘Peter’) Wood.  Major Wood continued the operation of the Herm local post office and the issuance of local stamps until October 1969 when the Guernsey Post Office Board established a Herm sub-office and officially took over responsibility for all Herm postal operations.

Operation of the Herm Local Post and the 1969 Guernsey Takeover

During the twenty years of successful operation of the Herm local post, the island ‘post office’ has occupied several locations.  During the 1950’s the office was situated in the Gift Shop; in the early 1960’s in the terraced cottage at the foot of Manor Drive and then back to the Gift Shop.  It was there when the Guernsey Post Office opened its sub-office in 1969.  The Herm post office then moved to an adjacent shop in the piazza.

During the operation of the local post facilities on Herm, the Herm ‘Postmaster’ saw that the mail was properly franked with both British stamps (required for the mail to be serviced by the GPO) and with Herm stamps (required as a carriage fee to transfer the mail to Guernsey for GPO posting).  No items were accepted for mailing from Herm unless they bore the proper Herm postage.  The mail was subsequently cancelled on Herm (that is, the Herm stamps were tied to the back of envelopes or to the top left of the message-side of postcards by a Herm circular date stamp canceller), placed into a locked mailbag marked ‘HERM ISLAND MAIL’ and then the bag transferred on the 9 a.m. milk boat to Guernsey, where it was taken to the GPO Sorting Office in St Peter Port and unlocked by a Post Office official.  Letters to Herm were placed in the bag, which was then relocked and taken back to the island ‘post office’ for distribution.  Unlike Lundy, the Herm local post authorities did not require an additional fee over the British postage payment for incoming mail.  However, there was little incoming mail as almost all Herm mail was cards and letters sent out by tourists.

The Herm local post issued numerous series of stamps over the twenty year period of its operation.  From 1949 to 1960, Herm local stamps reflected themes of the island history, geography and fauna.  Then in 1961, Herm succumbed to the issuance of popular philatelic ‘thematics’ (such as ‘Europa’ and Anti-malaria sets) and underwent much criticism in the philatelic press at that time.  These speculative issues damaged Herm’s philatelic reputation.  However, it is now being realised by many philatelists that the Herm issues were an integral part of Channel Islands philately and postal history, and collector interest steadily grew among Channel Islands specialists.

On 1 October 1969 the British Post Office became a public corporation and, since Guernsey wished its postal service to remain under state control, it had arranged to take over the GPO and issue its own stamps.  The Guernsey Post Office Board did not wish its stamps to be regarded throughout the world as ‘local’ issues, with accompanying negative connotation among philatelists, so it banned all local services in the Bailiwick and enacted a law that would make it an offence under penalty of a heavy fine to use local carriage labels.  The Board also realised this edict would cause a severe hardship to Herm if its services were completely withdrawn.  Consequently the Board opened a sub-office there on the so-called vesting day: 1 October 1969 (date of transfer of postal services from the GPO to the Guernsey authority).  Major Wood, in recognition of, and as a reward for his twenty years of mail-carrying efforts, was offered and accepted the Herm sub-postmastership, and the Post Office on Herm became ‘official’ once again after an interval of more than thirty years. 

The Anti-Malaria Stamps of 1962

Following the relatively great financial success of its 1961 ‘Europa’ set, Herm decided to join the ‘Anti-malaria’ theme of 1962, which had the potential to be an international best seller.  During the period of June 1959 to September 1961, Herm had produced four different sets simply by overprinting existing stocks of the 1959 ‘maps and boats’ definitive.  After four consecutive overprinted sets, it was refreshing to find Herm’s newly-found prosperity from sales of its 1961 Europa sets permitted the Anti-malaria issue to have two specially designed values, even if these were coupled with another overprint for the low value in the set.

The set of three Herm stamps for the 1962 Anti-Malaria Campaign was issued on 7 June 1962 and consisted of:

  • An 8 doubles value, equivalent to one penny (the double – pronounced ‘dooble’ – was an old Guernsey coin, eight of which were equivalent to a British penny.  Until 1971 Guernsey ˝d and 1d coins were, in fact, inscribed ‘4 doubles’ and ‘8 doubles’, respectively), which was the current local rate for mailing a postcard from Herm.

  • An 11d value, which represented no then-current Herm local posting rate, and could only have valid postal use for making up higher rates required for weighty packages or parcels or for registered mail (as far as I could ascertain from examining the rates of carriage from Herm that existed at that time).  The sum of the two low valued stamps do equal one shilling, but there was no existing one shilling rate in effect either.

  • A 1s 6d value, which was the then-current fee for taking registered letters from Herm to the Guernsey Post Office.

The 8 doubles stamp was a special printing in blue of the current 8 doubles ‘map’ definitive and overprinted in black ‘ANTI MALARIA/CAMPAIGN/1962’  The 11d and 1s 6d values were designed by Victor Whiteley of Harrison & Sons Ltd of London, security printers.  It was offset lithographed in sheets of 30 (6 across by 5 down), perforated 14˝.  The 11d design has a microscope and mosquito, and the stamps were printed in red.  The 1s 6d design has a mosquito, and the stamps were printed in green (Figure 1).  

Figure 1 The Anti-malaria stamps of 1962

The printing figures of 105,000 for 8-doubles value and 100,000 each for the 11d and 1s 6d values proved inordinately optimistic, and sales were well below expectations.  Five years later more than a quarter of the total printing of the 11d value was over-printed as a provisional 1˝ stamp (to meet the sealed letter rate that was in effect in 1967) (Figure 2).

Figure 2  The 1967 1˝d provisional

The 1981 Backman/Forrester Catalogue attributes the lack of popularity of this issue to ‘Victor Whiteley’s designs proving to be rather disappointing’.  I feel, however, that Mr Whiteley’s designs were attractive and the stamps well produced.  Herm was under extensive criticism in the philatelic press during the period of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s for exploiting collectors with an ‘excessive’ amount of ‘unnecessary’ issues.  Furthermore, the British Philatelic Association Joint Committee and the Philatelic Traders’ Society did not endorse the British Isle ‘locals’ that were beginning to proliferate during that period and requested its members to use restrictive descriptions when offering such issues for sale.  Themes such as ‘Europa’ and ‘Anti-malaria’ that had nothing to do with Herm certainly did not enhance its philatelic reputation.  In addition the optimistic printing of 100,000 sets, when the printing of three of Herm’s four previous commemorative sets numbered under 10,000 (1959 Royal Visit 5,000, 1960 Royal Wedding 8,000, 1960 World Refugee Year 8,000) seemed entirely unrealistic for its local post needs unless philatelic exploitation was intended!

No catalogued ‘errors’ or ‘varieties’ of the stamps in the Herm 1962 Anti-malaria set exist, and this is a tribute to the stamp-producing ability and integrity of Harrison & Sons Ltd.  A publicity sheet with impressions of the three stamps, reproduced from actual dies, was produced (quantity unknown) by Harrison & Sons Ltd.  In addition, imperforate proofs in the issued colours were prepared by the printers and six imperforate colour trials by Harrison & Sons Ltd were also produced. These were 8 doubles: black overprint on green and black overprint on red; 11d green and pale blue; 1s 6d pale blue and rose carmine (Figure 3). 

Figure 3  A set of colour trials

Ample first day of issue covers containing the usual Herm cachet in black and the red imprint: ‘ANTI MALARIA/7TH June/1962’ were prepared for collectors and are still relatively plentiful (Figure 4). 

Figure 4  A first day cover of the Anti-malaria issue

These were serviced to and from Guernsey (round trip representing actual GPO usage).

The 1967 Provisional Issue

Because of the poor sales of the Anti-malaria set, large stocks of the 11d value, which did not represent any existing Herm postage rate, remained on the island.  In 1967 the remainder of these (27,750 stamps) were overprinted in black with a 3.75 mm square at the lower right and a 9 mm long and 1˝ mm wide rectangle at the upper left.  These served as obliterators for the ‘11d’ value and the ‘1962’ date respectively together with the 3-line inscription ‘August/1967/1˝d’ (see Figure 2).  This provisional issue was overprinted by the Guernsey Press Company Ltd to temporarily rectify a shortage of the 1˝d definitive brought about by tourist demand during the summer of 1967.  The 1˝d fee represented the rate for sealed letters at that time.  No overprinting ‘errors’ or ‘varieties’ of this provisional issue are catalogued, again a credit to the integrity of the firm responsible for the stamps’ preparation.  First day of issue covers (31 August 1967) seeing actual postal service to and from Guernsey (for actual GPO usage) exist, but are not that plentiful.  Technically this stamp is not an ‘Anti-malaria’ issue.  It filled the need for a definitive for a Herm rate at the time that it was produced.  Nevertheless, the presence of the design and words ‘Anti Malaria Campaign’ make it desirable as a thematic.

Conclusions

I feel that the Herm local post served a valid postal function for its twenty years of existence and its local stamps were ‘valid’ and ‘necessary’ issues.  They were used to prepay fixed fees for a private postal service for Herm residents and visitors that was not being provided for them by the GPO.  Therefore, Herm locals should have a place in Channel Islands postal history.  I attempted to illustrate this thesis by providing a postal history of the island at the onset of this article.  It is also my opinion (as well as that of several national philatelic societies and the philatelic press in general during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s) that several of Herm’s issues (including the 1962 Anti-malaria set) were unnecessary and produced primarily to be exploitive of thematic collectors. 

Orthography

When capitalised, ‘Post Office’ refers to the British Government or Guernsey authority.  In lower case, ‘post office’ refers to the Herm operation or the building in which it is housed.  ‘Anti-malaria’ is hyphenated and the ‘M’ is capitalised in headings only.  However, Herm didn’t follow this style on its stamps so when the wording on stamps is quoted it becomes ‘Anti Malaria’. 

References

1)  1.    The Postage Stamps of the Smaller Channel Islands by Anders Backman and Dr Bob Forrester, Channel Islands Publishing.

2) 2.    The Island of Herm and its Posts by William Newport, Channel Islands Specialists’ Society.

3) 3.    Various articles from philatelic periodicals over the period of 1955 – 1965.  


The original illustrations in black and white were from Roger Cichorz’s collection.  The colour illustrations are from the collections of the late Dr Bob Forrester and David Ackroyd

Scanning and editing by Peter Hewitt

 

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