Wednesday 12 June 2019

Next stamp issue, Curious Customs - 9 July 2019

Royal Mail's next special stamp issue is the Curious Customs set of eight, on 9 July 2019.  My understanding is that no details of these should be made available until later this month but they are already showing on at least one first day cover producer's website.

You can see the cover here.

Now, the embargo date we have is 23 June for products and 2 July for stamps but as several people have told me (thank you all) the stamps are now available for pre-order on Royal Mail's website.

So here they are, as shown in the presentation pack on that page.  The set consists of se-tenant pairs of 2nd class, 1st class and two airmail rate (£1.55 and £1.65) which many people had already worked out from the charge to their bureau new issue accounts.
In the presentation pack Folklorist Steve Roud shares the tales behind the customs, and there is a poem written for Royal Mail by Matt Harvey, Customs and Exercise, celebrates our nation’s curious traditions and eccentric endeavours.
  • 2nd class Burning the Clocks 21 December - A highly popular community midwinter folk festival in which participants carry paper clock lanterns made of willow wands and figures. The procession culminates on the beach where the lanterns are set alight and a firework display takes place. Established in 1994 this is an example of a successful modern tradition.
  • 2nd class Padstow ’Obby ’Oss 1 May - Two strange black beasts called Osses (but barely resembling horses) swirl and sway through the streets of Padstow accompanied by a host of drummers, musicians and dancers. before finally ‘dying’ at midnight. The first documentary record of this custom dates from 1803.
  • 1st class World Gurning Championships Third Saturday in September - The World Gurning Championship is held at Egremont Crab Fair. Men and women compete to produce the most grotesque face while framed in a horse collar.
  • 1st class Up Helly Aa - Last Tuesday in January.  An impressive and famous fire festival which is more than 100 years old. People in dress parade through town, carrying blazing torches including the Guizer Squad in full Viking attire. A full size wooden Viking longship (built over the preceding year) is pulled through the town and is later ceremonially burned as part of the festivities.
  • £1.55  Cheese Rolling - Cooper’s Hill, Brockworth, Gloucestershire, Spring Bank Holiday Monday (in 2019, 27th May). Hundreds of contestant’s chase and attempt to catch a double Gloucester cheese rolling down a hill. The event has been taking place since at least the early 19th century.
  • £1.55  Halloween - Derry/Londonderry, runs for 5-8 days in the run up to and just after 31st October.   A tradition of dressing up and calling at houses for gifts has been common for many centuries. The world’s biggest Halloween Party is in Derry/Londonderry which now welcomes around 80,000 people. It involves parades, fancy dress, ghost walks, fireworks and was named as the world’s best Halloween celebration by USA Today
  • £1.60  Horn Dance - Abbots Bromley, Staffs, early September (in 2019 it will take place on Monday, 9th September). This is a famous and ancient custom which is unique in Europe. Six men carrying huge Reindeer antlers plus characters dressed as Maid Marian, Fool, Hobby Horse and Bowman celebrate ancient hunting rites. They perambulate the parish and at set places perform a dance. The design of the costumes and the dance have been preserved for hundreds of years, with the earliest reference to the horns dating from the 1630s.
  • £1.60  Bog Snorkelling - Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys, last Monday in August.  First held in 1976 the event involves contestants going across and back through a water-filled trench in a peat bog, with the fastest being the winner. Competitors from all over the world take part, with snorkels being essential as participants must remain submerged and only use flippers to propel themselves.
Technical details: Designed by NB Studio with illustrations by Jonny Hannah.  All images are copyright Royal Mail Group.  The stamps are litho-printed by ISP Walsall in sheets of 60.  Phosphor "as appropriate to service", which means a single central band on the 2nd class stamps and barely visible bands across the perforations creating two bands on the others.

Products: first day cover, presentation pack, stamp cards.

Postmark news
According to the Postmark Bulletin (the latest now available here) the Tallents House FD postmark will be applied in blue and the alternative (Maypole, Monmouth) FD postmark will be applied in red. The only sponsored postmarks so far are from Whitstable, Woodstock Way Mitcham (why not Woodstock, Oxford?), Lerwick, and Derry*.  Cover producers have not gone mad this time!

Update 9 July
* The original design of this handstamp, as posted on Royal Mail's postmark webpage, showed this as "Derry, Londonderry" as on the stamp.  Royal Mail vet sponsored handstamps to make sure that they fit in with their 'Address Management Guide'.

They found that the only 'Derry' was a location which has Enniskillen as it's post-town and advised the sponsor, and so the handstamp was changed.  This is despite the fact that the stamp itself is captioned 'Derry Londonderry'.

Derry, Enniskillen, is an area southeast of Enniskillen.  The area covered by the Derry, Enniskillen, postcode is largely wet and uninhabited!

Postmark errors can happen.  For the Cattle Post and Go stamps a sponsored handstamp for "Bull's Green Norwich Norfolk" was used.  Bull's Green is in Norfolk, but not Norwich, and it's correct postal address uses the post-town Beccles, Suffolk.  We don't know how this error occurred but it suggests a lack of consistency.

UPDATE 10 JULY Media reporting on this issue.

The BBC has reported on Derry Halloween postage stamp released by Royal Mail with the next line reading "Royal Mail has revealed a new stamp celebrating Londonderry's annual Halloween festival."  See, Derry = Londonderry, their interchangeable, or more to the point if you are writing for a wide audience it makes sense to use both terms.

The Brighton & Hove Independent wrote "Brighton's winter solstice event Burning the Clocks has been recognised as part of a stamp series issued by Royal Mail."

Gloucestershire Live headlined the story "Pride for Cheese Rolling Committee as Coopers Hill stamp gets commissioned by Royal Mail".

Lichfield Live has an article about the Abbots Bromley Horn Dancers.

Enlarged pictures of the relevant stamps feature in the stories.   Other regional media outlets will probably follow suit.


  1. I just do not understand why the cover producers can show these stamps on their websites but no one else can. Maybe it is because the stamps on the covers are no longer mint stamps.

    1. There are two embargo dates set by RM for each issue, one for products (such as covers) and another for the stamps as an individual item. Here's looking ]forward to an equally uninspiring August!

  2. Gurning! Ha! Wonder if I still have any Mr Grumpy stamps left - maybe would make a nice combo with the gurning plus additional postage for sending a letter to the US!

  3. My Order Advice Note says that the total cost will be £9.37. P&P @ 45p presumably.
    However from the details supplied the total cost would seem to be £9.47.
    Thank you for the information Ian.

    1. Anonymous, if you count the values ie 2 x 2nd @ 61p = 1.22, 2 x 1st @ 70p = 1.40, 2 @ 1.55 = 3.10, & 2 x 1.60 = 3.20 that adds up to £8.92 then add the P&P 45p = £9.37

  4. Just when you think Royal Mail has scraped the bottom of the barrel, along comes this set of eight of the most hideous stamps I've ever had the misfortune to see.

  5. Fired up by the sheer awfulness of this proposed issue I came across a comment of Sir Kenneth Clark who resigned from the Chairmanship of the Stamp Advisory Committee as long ago as 1965 saying, “There had been a change of outlook in the production of stamps with which I was not in sympathy .... I was afraid that the admission of pictorial stamps would lead to complete banality”. How he right he was.

  6. I remember a few years back sending in some suggestions to Royal Mail. No response and none came to pass. An Post is quite happy to receive suggestions for stamps.

    This theme wasn't mentioned in the poll options RM had a couple of years ago. And although customs could be something to celebrate, they could have chosen some better ones. Maybe the London Marathon for charity, dressed in fancy dress (I wonder, has anyone ran it in a postbox costume?), the village fete, ....

    I know I am in the minority as a stamp user. I write a lot of letters and use the commemorative stamps. They do get talked about in letters. My penpals enjoy seeing the different stamps, and have tried to use the stamps I think they'd like (some penpals have children who are into comics or Marvel or Harry Potter...). As long as a stamp looks nice or is celebrating/commemorating something of importance/interest to me/my penfriends, I'm likely to buy the stamps to use.

  7. These stamps look like as a child created them, they are pretty much bog standard as one stamp suggests, pardon the pun, not the most enchanted set for 2019, when I saw this set in the list at the beginning of the year, I was very hesitant and curious, again, sorry about the pun of where this set was going. Halloween I get but the rest seem pretty much odd could have had Guy Fawkes (Nov 5), May Day Bank Holiday which you could have had dancers dancing around a wooden pole, Haggis throwing LOL, Strawberries and cream which you would associate with summer, Easter Eggs and a bunny rabbit really that's the sort of things I was expecting from this set. There was so much scope to discover its a shame they were hardly stepped on.

    1. Well, while I don't like them, I can't agree that 'Strawberries & cream, Easter Eggs...' etc would have been appropriate.

      These are regional cultural customs. Up Helly Aa for instance is a very serious long-standing Custom in Shetland, see

      Bog Snorkleling, on the other hand, only goes back to 1976 - perhaps they could find anything else in Wales?

      Whilst The World Gurning Championship itself may not date back to 1267 when the Egremont Crab Festival with which it is associated started, it has certainly existed for 150 years and probably longer.

  8. They are just overcrowded and ugly. You have to look hard to see what the image is showing and what the words say. Very representative of modern life in Britain I suppose.

  9. The special handstamp advertised in connection with the £1.55 Derry stamp has (apparently) two versions - though probably not in reality. Handstamp 14929 in the latest Postmark Bulletin (Volume 48, Number 7) has 'DERRY, ENNISKILLEN 9.07.2019' as part of its inscription, whereas the same-numbered handstamp on the postmarks page of Royal Mail's website has 'DERRY, LONDONDERRY 9.07.2019'. There are some small differences in typeface/font too.

    1. I believe Derry, Londonderry was the proposal by the sponsor. This is in line with the stamp.

      But the Royal Mail dept responsible for handstamps checked the address in the RM Address Database and found that the only place called Derry was in the Enniskillen area, ie a small place with E as it's Post-town. That's as may be; I can't find it in a gazetteer, in an old Post Offices in the UK, on any search engine. All searches default to what we know as Derry/Londonderry.

      But apparently the postcode for 'Derry, Enniskillen' is BT92 3BT - look at it on Google maps!

      I doubt that this is something that can be changed at this very late stage, but we shall await developments.

  10. Oh what a tangled web we weave! Someone appears to have tracked down a townland named Derry, in County Fermanagh, on the NW shore of Upper Lough Erne, south of Enniskillen - see '
    &urlmaxx=226991&urlmaxy=333187' (URL is all one line).
    No Post Office there, now nor in the past, as far as I know.


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