Isle of Man Stamps – The Kelly Collection

The latest issue of stamps from Isle of Man Post, based on the extensive Kelly Collection, is a presentation of pure nostalgia, reflecting on the once booming visiting industry that brought much needed work, and for some, prosperity to the Island.

Manx souvenirs, particularly in the late Victorian and Edwardian eras, were much sought after by visitors either as quality presents or ‘fairings’ (prizes at fun fairs) and consequently many of these items have survived.
A number of these unusual objects were collected by Robert and Linda Kelly over a period of 40 years and this issue of stamps has been dedicated to Linda who died last year. Their fascination with Manx memorabilia began in the 1950s with the acquisition of a large calendar of Victorian vintage showing a view of Douglas Bay, which re-awakened childhood memories and their curiosity as to what other mementoes may have survived the downturn in tourism.
The stamps depicted here show a number of unusual items. The Goss china Manx cottage becomes a handy home for a ‘night light’, whilst the Island’s famous three legs symbol on the Crown Devon model of an early Manx racing car conveniently becomes a starting handle! But here too is a Royal Doulton spittoon incorporating scenes from the parish of Maughold and a beautiful, enamelled silver Founder’s jewel featuring an illustration of the Tower of Refuge and designed by Archibald Knox for the Freemasons of Conister Lodge. The final two stamps depict animals, ‘Ginger-Manx of Glen Orry’ and ‘Prince Toby Orry’ who both became famous in their own right. ‘Ginger’ is pictured playing Ellan Vannin on the piano as designed for a commemorative plate in 1962 by Mrs Alexander Elsin (the former Dorothy Mylrea) as a fundraiser for the 1963 NAMA Convention in Chicago. ‘Ginger’ also founded a line of champion Manx cats! But ‘Prince Toby Orry’, born in 1907 and supposed last specimen of a breed of three-legged dogs which inspired the Island’s emblem, was immortalised by Willow Art China of Staffordshire and remained a fascinating talking point for visitors for many years.
Clearly Manx memorabilia was an important industry on the Island and covered a vast range of collectables which included postage stamps, coins, books, postcards, china, prints, maps and jewellery. A lucrative business, producers were never short of ideas, creating scent and liquor bottles, old pipes, decorated handkerchiefs and brass buttons.
Valerie Caine
© May 2012