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L44-L45, blocks of four

1922 White Cross Stamps

Set 11L

Green and black
Block of four
[MID (det)]  [LAR (det)]

Yellow and blue
Block of four
[MID (det)]  [LAR (det)]


Design: L44 - Irish family and burning building. Inscription "IRISH WHITE CROSS". 23 x 32 mm. L45 - White cross. Inscription "IRISH WHITE CROSS". 24.25 x 33 mm.

Printing: L44 was printed in sheets of 36 subjects (6 x 6). L45 was printed in sheets of twenty subjects (4 x 5).

Separation: Perf. 11.

Watermark: None.

Date of Issue: c 1921-22.

Numbers Issued: Unknown.

Notes: The Irish White Cross Society was founded on 1 February 1921, to (in its own words) "cope with the distress and destitution resulting in Ireland from the war caused by the determination of the Irish people to assert their right to nationhood." The reference is to the Anglo-Irish War of 1919-21, waged between the forces of the British crown and those of a new provisional Republican government (proclaimed following Sinn Féin's strong showing in the general election of December 1918). To resist British administration and secure recognition for its government, the Irish Republican Army initiated a guerilla war of ambushes and attacks on barracks, to which the crown reponded with ruthless reprisals. The idea of creating a relief organization to assist refugees and others materially affected by the struggle originated in America, where the Republican mission (led by president-in-exile Eamon de Valera) was assiduously courting public opinion and raising funds. In December 1920 wealthy sympathizers formed the American Committee for Relief in Ireland - an ostensibly non-partisan, humanitarian agency, though its premise - that damage wrought by crown (as opposed to IRA) forces in Ireland was so extensive as to require international aid - was contested by both the British Red Cross and the American Friends Service Committee, and remains controversial to this day. The Irish White Cross was created to receive and disburse funds collected by the ACRI. Because of the presence on the White Cross Board of Trustees of ardent nationalists like Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins, the British at first demanded that the donations be otherwise distributed, but relented in the face of American opinion. Ultimately, the White Cross distributed over £1,350,000 in aid in 1921-22, mostly in the form of personal relief and loans for the rebuilding of houses.

Among the listings under "Income" in the Report of the Irish White Cross to 31st August, 1922 is the amount of £52 15s 3d earned "by sale of stamps." This presumably refers to either or both of the labels in Set 11L. The philatelic literature has paid scant attention to this set, since "charity stamps" of this general type (invalid for postage and sold to raise funds for a charitable cause) are more universal, and less ostensibly political, than the other labels discussed in this section. The imagery of L44 relates quite specifically to the social ills the ACRI and White Cross were seeking to alleviate: the burning homestead, the injured or dying father, the uncertain fate of the other family members.

Provenance: Dr. Charles Wolf.

Bibliography: Irish White Cross Society 1922, 29; Hickey 1966, 632; Carroll 1982, 30-40; MacDonnell and Whyte 1991, 13.

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