Postal History…Part Two. Postmarks

Postmarks show where a letter, postcard or parcel has been posted. In the early days, this postmarking or franking was done in the post offices in small villages as well as the post offices in large cities.

From a purely Irish perspective, letters posted between 1840 and 1922 bear British stamps and the postmarks are in “English”. Obviously postmarks of Dublin, Cork, Limerick are extremely common but perhaps surprisingly small villages are easy to find. Below is an example of a Dublin postmark, one from Buncrana, a seaside resort in County Donegal and Maryborough in “Queens County”.

Postmark1 Postmark2


The names of two counties changed after Independence. “Queens County” (originally named for English Queen, Mary Tudor) was inappropriate and re-named as County Laois. Likewise neighbouring “Kings County” (originally named for Mary’s consort Philip of Spain) was re-named as County Offaly. Towns in Laois such as “Maryborough” became Port Laoise. And towns in Offaly such as “Parsonstown”  became Birr.

The process of re-naming towns extended to “Queenstown” in County Cork becoming Cobh and “Kingstown” in County Dublin becoming Dun Laoighre. This means that these postmarks have a wider significance. They are an important part of Irish History itself.

To the Postal Historian (and I am NOT one), the design and shape of the postmark is important. I make no pretence at understanding the difference between “single ring” and “double ring” except that some are more rare than others and this makes a difference to Dealers. To me personally, it is not relevant.

From an Irish perspective, postmarks appear in the “Irish” language after Independence. But spellings DO change as a more standard use of the language came into being. Below is an album page of Irish postmarks. I have pages of postmarks from all counties….north and south. The page below is just one from County Cork. I have over forty postmarks from the largest county in Ireland.


Increasingly, village  postmarks disappeared as the sorting of mail moved to larger towns. The mechanisation process often means heavy duty postmarks (see Dublin below) or no postmark at all (Lurgan, County Armagh last week).

Postmark5 Postmark6

We never miss something until it is gone. Increasingly Postmarks are a thing of the Past.


About John

Dia Duit! Hello. My name is John. I am retired. I live in Ireland. I am on a five year mission to visit every city, town, village and place of historic and scenic interest in Ireland.
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