Monday 16 May 2022

First Post and Go Stamps Illustrator, Robert Gillmor, dies at the age of 85.

The death has been announced of Robert Gillmor MBE, one of the country's most popular and respected bird artists, aged 85.

Robert Gillmor at his North Norfolk studio overlooking Cley Marshes (Photo: John Walden)

He is best known to the stamp world as the illustrator for Royal Mail's first pictorial Post and Go Stamps, then known as Faststamps issued in September 2010, which depicted garden birds.  This first set of 6 was followed by more Garden Birds, Water Birds, and Sea Birds.

He was also responsible for the 2012 Farm Animals (Sheep, Pigs, Cattle) and 2015 Fur & Feathers series of Post and Go stamps.

Before that he produced designs for the local carriage labels of the Summer Isles, off the coast of Scotland.  

Six 'stamps' from the (Scottish) Summer Isles depicting birds often seen in the area of the western isles: Arctic Tern, Red-breasted Merganser, Gannets, Barnacle Geese, Heron and Gold Eagle.

But he was known for much more than stamps: the first publication containing one of his works appeared when he was still in his teens.  Many obituaries have been published, including this one in The Guardian.

A more personal comment appears in John Cooper's blog "Britain is no country for old men" (a quote from W B Yeats).

Robert, who has died at the age of 85, was a highly regarded by ornithologists throughout the world for his illustrations in numerous books, especially those on bird behaviour. He drew from life and his many hours of observation were reflected in the quality of his final prints, in which he captured the essence of the birds, using his brilliant draughtsmanship and beautiful compositions. From an early age, the Quaker blend of humility and a celebration of life, shone through all his work.


When Mark Avery asked Robert : "How many individual pieces of bird art have you produced?" as part of his interview for inclusion for his 2015 publication, 'Behind the Binoculars', Robert replied : "I haven’t the faintest idea!  There would be several thousand drawings altogether and then all the paintings.  All the calendars – I did calendars for over thirty years and latterly there were two calendars a year, needing twenty-four paintings, so those add up". In recognition of his work, in 2020 Robert received the 'SWLA Outstanding Contribution to Art & Nature Award'.


When the Norfolk & Norwich Philatelic Society commemorated its centenary in autumn 2011, the project leader compiled a book of Norfolk Posts & Personalities (still available here!) which included as many stamps associated with Norfolk, and Norfolk-related stories about stamps as he could find. 

Robert was kind enough to be interviewed, and to have photographs taken for publication in this book. He also loaned some of the original artwork for our exhibition, which he attended, signing his latest book of bird illustrations, and our souvenir covers (and some past first day covers). A charming man, and I am pleased to have a complete set of 4 of the Post and Go birds first day covers signed by him - probably unique.

Detail from signed commemorative cover, 2011.

He said, "It is a delightful thought that my stamps will appear on people's letters and packets using the very latest technology, especially as my artwork was created using a 150-year-old printing press.".

UPDATE: My fellow-blogger WhiteKnight shows on a recent post (Commonwealth Stamps Opionion) some stamps designed by Robert in 1972 for the Seychelles.

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