Stamp of approval: Special delivery: postmen get ready to leave Cloughjordan post office in the early 1900s Picture courtesy of the Baker Collection
With Tipperary post offices firmly in the spotlight in the past few weeks, people may be interested in a fascinating exhibition due to open in the premier county at the end of this week.
An exhibition telling the hstory of post offices and the banking services in one village in Lower Ormond is due to open in the MacDonagh Museum in Cloughjordan on March 22.
Mobile phone technology has replaced the callout bell for the messenger who saddled up his horse and cart, then dressed in the official postman’s uniform and reported to the post office where he was given the message for urgent dispatch.
Our efforts to communicate with family and friends, conduct business and commerce and reach out to pioneering emigrants is shown in the exhibition through a display of telegrams, letters, postcards and stamps from the 1800s, including many First Day of Issue commemorative stamps.
The people of Cloughjordan fondly remember the phone exchange, when phone numbers were in single digits, and staff assisted in “putting callers through”.
There is a special section in the exhibition of related items.
At a time when we may be witnessing the demise of the local post office and the closure of local banks, the exhibition recalls the extent of the services that have been available to the public.
While the exhibition story begins under His Majesty’s Service it progresses to an expression of pride in a new nation through Celtic images and use of the Irish language on official stationary.
The presence of the Great Southern and Western Railway station in Cloughjordan assisted in the development of postal services in North Tipperary. It enabled parcel post, the newspapers and orders from trading companies to arrive daily to the town - a service now replaced by online orders.
Samuel Baker, postmaster in Cloughjordan at the turn of the nineteenth century, ran a store along with the post office business.
Besides the day-to-day goods required in the town and surrounding farming area he offered a booking service for shipping lines such as White Star Line, Cunard Steam Ship Company and the Allen Line Royal Mail Boat.
He meticulously maintained records of the business in the post office.
On Thursday, February 7, 1907, pig market day, he recorded each transaction at the post office counter from 6am to 8pm, covering 288 entries.
One example reads: “Are there any Chronicles in?”; “Telegram delivered - messenger returns with bicycle chain broken”; “Would you have the change of a pound, if you please Mr”; “Bedad, sure I’m twenty minutes fast (looking at the clock)!”
The presence of a bank in Cloughjordan features in documentation under the Provincial Bank, the Munster Bank, the Munster and Leinster Bank and Allied Irish Banks.
As people began to acquire some money it was carefully saved in various forms and currency was valued, even to the child’s cherished gift of “a half crown”.
Official documents were marked with a stamp in sealing wax or a dated stamp. Cheques appear as handwritten documents and receipts on billheads tell a tale of enterprise in the local area.
Sadly, the former bank building is now vacant.
The Thomas MacDonagh Museum is indebted to the many people who made available material for this exhibition.
Peter Baker has made available items from the extensive Baker Collection and the present postmaster, Brian Sheppard, also contributed.
The exhibition is made possible by the support of Tipperary County Council, making it possible to purchase display cabinets, facilitating the exhibition, and to extend storage facilities for the museum’s collection.
All are welcome to attend the launch of Cloughjordan Post Office and Banking Service on March 22 at 7.30pm, when there will be an opportunity to share memories. The museum will be open from 4pm and the exhibition will be on display through the coming months.