The Trinity Letterbox


EITHNE SCALLAN

The letterbox at Trinity, Taghmon, is a small landmark of particular interest. Letterboxes were introduced to Ireland by the nineteenth century novelist Anthony Trollope, who held an important position in the British Post Office in the years 1841 to 1866. (He was post office surveyor in Banagher, Co. Offaly from 1841 and wrote two of his novels while based there.) The first French style pillar box in the United Kingdom was introduced in the Channel Islands in 1852, and was followed by a pilot scheme in London which proved so successful that pillar boxes were introduced to other cities, including Dublin. It is worth remembering that in the years 1839 to 1842, Irish letters increased from 9 million to 24 million per year, so it is not surprising that letterboxes were on the increase. By 1857 they were becoming familiar around Ireland, and at this time the Post Office began to experiment with wall boxes in this country. These, like the pillar boxes, bore the initials of the reigning monarch VR and later ERV11, and GR (as on the box at Caroreigh school) . All were painted red.

Following the reforms within the Post Office in the early 1800's, by the second half of the nineteenth century there were further moves towards streamlining, speed, reliability and public service. With the introduction of steam, the London/Dublin mail route became the fastest in the world.

In the transition to Irish independence the existing boxes were first painted green, and then before we had our national P & T boxes, a few emerged around the country with a special raised circular stamp SE for Saorstat Eireann. These are comparatively rare and the small dome- topped box at Trinity, which is neither free-standing nor set into the wall, (and which is unaccountably painted pale grey) is one of these unusual little monuments to the past.

The Trinity Letterbox (photo kindly taken by Leo Jones)

SOURCES

A History of The Irish Post Office - Mairead Reynolds
The Shell Guide to Ireland - Killanin/Duignan.

FOOTNOTES

  1. VR is Queen Victoria; ERV11 is Edward V11; GR is George V (grandfather of Queen Elizabeth 11)