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L27, se-tenant pair

1916 Manchester Martyrs Label

Set 8L

Se-tenant pair
[MID]  [LAR (det)]


Design: Shamrock enclosing a harp and portraits of the "Manchester martyrs" Allen, Larkin, and O'Brien, against the tricolor. Inscription "GOD SAVE IRELAND" at bottom center. 76 x 26 mm.

Printing: James Walker & Co. Ltd., Dublin (?)

Separation: Imperforate.

Watermark: None.

Date of Issue: April-May 1916.

Numbers Issued: Unknown.

Notes: What proved to be the most significant episode of the abortive Fenian rising of March 1867 occurred months afterward, with the hanging of the so-called "Manchester martyrs" - William Allen, Michael Larkin, and William O'Brien. The three men were convicted for the murder of an unarmed police sergeant, while attempting to free two Fenian leaders being transported from a Manchester courthouse to the county jail. Public outrage at the executions, as well as agitation for an amnesty for Fenian prisoners, succeeded in mobilizing nationalist opinion to an extent that the rising itself failed to achieve, and provided a basis for the launching of the home rule movement.

The Martyrs labels were printed some fifty years after the executions, at the time of the Easter rising of 1916. Planned by the Irish Republican Brotherhood and carried out in the name of the provisional government of the Irish Republic, the Easter rising had little hope of success as a military action; it was put down by crown forces in five days. But as in 1867, a great deal of public sympathy for the insurgents developed in the aftermath, due to perceived government atrocities and the execution of a number of key IRB figures. The labels were probably printed immediately after the rising, on the occasion of a flag day held in Dublin to raise funds for the families and dependants of those who had been arrested. As se-tenant pairs (i. e., unsevered pairs with different designs; in this case the sequence of colors in the flag is reversed) the labels would have been folded around a pin to form a small paper tricolor flag, the flag of the nationalists. In the context of the occasion the martyrs iconography seems logical enough, alluding as it does to earlier prisoners of an earlier insurrection. Whether the IRB was resposible for printing the labels is not known. And though they were clearly not designed to be applied to correspondence, examples on cover from 1916-17 are known, if extremely rare. The idea that the Martyrs labels were issued as Republican stamps was given credence by the inclusion of the design in a series of cigarette cards of famous stamps, included in packs of Godfrey Philips cigarettes.

Provenance: Dr. Charles Wolf.

Bibliography: Barger 1951, 8; EPA 1961, "Political Labels of Ireland," 7; EPA 1966, "Irish Stamps: A Retrospect," 622; Feldman 1968, 17; Mackay 1968, 60.

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