Report of Regional Meeting, July 17, 2010
At York
PRESENT: Eight members and five guests were present; apologies for absence were received from eighteen members.

Before the meeting proper, Ted Fraser-Smith (ESC 238), who presented his research into censor labels at the previous York meeting, announced that good progress had been made, and appealed to members for more photocopies/photos of the labels to continue his researches.

The Chairman greeted those few members present, and offered special thanks to Keith Pogson (ESC 130), who had almost literally got up from his sick-bed to arrange the meeting, the hall and the frames, and his wife Kay, who very kindly provided tea and biscuits; and also to David Sedgwick (ESC 589), who bravely followed through with his commitment to present half the meeting despite serious illness in his family.

He very much regretted the poor turnout - only eight members could stir themselves to make the effort despite the attractions of two good speakers and the York Racecourse Fair not 400 yards away - and feared that the Circle might have to review the holding of regional meetings.

The Chairman noted with great regret the recent passing of Robin Blakely (ESC 295), a keen collector in Swansea, after a long illness, and was pleased that Bill Johns (ESC 287) had been able to represent the Circle at the well-attended funeral.

The Secretary echoed Peter Andrews' words on regional meetings, and noted that despite recent experiments - the bourse, for instance - attendance at meetings has in recent times been generally disappointing. He suggested that a review of meetings policy as a whole might be in order, and appealed to members to suggest how they might be made more attractive. Should we remain tied to Stampex dates? Should we continue to hold six meetings a year? Should we try new venues? Should we try all-day meetings with morning and afternoon speakers?

He noted that the big London 2010 exhibition attracted three new members immediately, and the meeting elected to membership a further four members, three of whom had been attracted at London 2010, the fourth applying via the website. Four members had also failed to pay their 2010 subscriptions, despite many opportunities, and their memberships were lapsed.

John Sears announced that Auction 49 was virtually completed and that all lots had been sent out in just over a month, and reminded members that there would be no autumn Auction this year. In the absence of Edmund Hall, the Secretary announced that the latest QC was just about to be despatched, and spoke of concerns that the hard work extended on producing and maintaining the website was not fully appreciated. He asked members to support Edmund's efforts by visiting the site regularly and providing feedback on its content.

The displays were opened by David Sedgwick, who provided a fascinating and most unusual exposition of the postal history of two great ports - Port Said in Egypt, and his home town, West Hartlepool, in the North East of England. Unlikely though it might seem, there were many parallels to be drawn, and David made sure that all were explained and illustrated.

Both, for instance, were originally essentially no more than sand dunes, both were effectively the brainchild of a single man - Ferdinand de Lesseps for Port Said and Ralph Ward Jackson for West Hartlepool, both were dependent on industry for their continued growth, both had strong connections with coal (mining for West Hartlepool, fuelling steamships for Port Said). Both were founded in the middle of the 19th century and grew apace in the great revolution in shipping of that period; and both have now settled into a rather more sedate lifestyle after having experienced the heat of battle in fairly recent times.

David's display comprised postal history from the earliest days, while noting that material from Port Said's founding around 1869 to 1900 was not easy to find. He showed several covers from the French consular office there, including mixed frankings of Egyptian and French stamps, and several sheets displaying the French office's stamp issues. These included a 1912 cover (right) to Dresden with the registration label augmented by a handstamped "Port-Said". It is franked with a mixed use of the first two French office issues, two stamps from the overprinted 1899-1900 issue in conjunction with three others from the subsequent 1902-1920 set in which the name "Port-Said" has been incorporated into the stamp design. His display ranged far and wide, showing a block of four with the grave accent on "Millième" replaced by a circumflex; commercial covers from coaling companies with meter marks; British military Crown cancellations 9 and 10 which were based in Port Said; covers from Operation Musketeer, the 1956 "tripartite aggression" in which Port Said was badly damaged in 1956; and subsequent United Nations forces covers.

Turning to West Hartlepool, he explained how the town had grown up alongside "old" Hartlepool, which after a flourishing lifer as the port used by the Bishop of Durham had declined into a sleepy fishing village by the early nineteenth century. Ward Jackson saw the potential in trade in coal and steel with Northern Europe and the Baltic, and his energy led to the building of docks which saw West Hartlepool as the second-largest shipbuilder in the UK by the mid-19th-century.

His display provided a comprehensive history of postal material from the town, including even an Air Letter addressed to Port Said(!) and a 1918 cover cancelled with a slogan urging "Buy National War Bonds". Since West Hartlepool had been the first British town to be attacked in the First World War - German vessels shelled it in December 1914 - local people did as they were urged, to such a degree that they won a national competition by saving £31.0.1d per head - and so won a tank! The tank, named "Egbert", was presented to the town and was on display well into the 1930s.

John Davis (ESC 213) opened his display on Postage Dues by showing two spectacular pre-dues covers from the British consular post, one incoming from Bridgenorth in July 1870 addressed to Poste Restante Alexandria but readdressed to the New Hotel in Cairo; it has a consular "thimble" cancel in blue and a two-line cachet INSUFFICIENTLY PREPAID with a handstamped figure 2. The other, from Alexandria to St Andrews in December 864, shows two different cachets, one also reading INSUFFICIENTLY PREPAID, the other MORE TO PAY in a circle.

Returning to the background, he explained that the concept of "postage due" was a UPU attempt to regulate the chaotic proliferation of bilateral agreements between countries that led to argument and confusion as mails were transmitted via different routes at different rates and at different weight steps. First, standard international rate were set, and then in the 1878 UPU Congress in Paris, came the regulation:

"In the case of insufficient prepayment, correspondence of every kind is liable to a charge equal to double the amount of the deficiency, to be paid by the addressees".

Egypt produced its first Postage Due stamps in 1884, thirty years before Great Britain, but they were preceded by the use of handstamps indicating the amount due: these are exceedingly rare on cover, but John showed three examples - a figure 1 (one piastre) on an 1875 cover from Paris to Cairo, franked 1fr20 to cover the "port payé" fee to Alexandria but omitting the Egyptian fee for onward transmission to Cairo (single rate charged); an 1876 Alex-Cairo cover franked 1-piastre but handstamped AFFRANCATURA INSUFFICIENTE and figure 3, presumably overweight (double rate charged); and an unfranked 1869 En Ville cover from the Spanish Consulate in Alexandria handstamped 80 (ie, 80 paras, double the 1-piastre rate).

On December 29, 1883, an Egyptian Post Office notice announced that from January 1, 1884, stamps representing the amount due must be affixed to any offending mail; and no postage due should be sought or paid unless those stamps are affixed. Penasson of Alexandria produced the first three series of Egyptian Dues, in 1884, 1886 and 1888. All are rare on cover - but John was able to show all three sets on the same cover, all neatly cancelled by a Port Said CDS dated before January 1, 1884. Neat forgeries certainly, but whether intended to deceive seems unlikely give the flagrant use of an early CDS.

He then displayed all the various issues of Dues, via printings from De La Rue, Harrisons, and eventually in Egypt the 1927 set, including some rare usage on cover, and for the latter the cancelled-back and royal misperfs; though he noted not having seen the Crown Overprint Dues used on cover, he showed a used block of 12 of the 10 mills value. In 1952 the current Dues were overprinted "King of Egypt and the Sudan" - incredibly rare used, and impossible to find on cover.

New sets were issued in 1958, 1962 and 1965, becoming increasingly hard to find on cover, though John was able to show the final set on a cover addressed by the late Samir Fikry to his wife Jeanne - philatelic, but very very rare.

Moving on to the British military postal concession, he showed several covers with due amounts charged, for several reasons - addressed to Canada, which was outside the postal concession; overweight; posted in civilian boxes rather than military; but also showing some leeway in adherence to the rules - covers from a troopship without access to stamps, a one-off free Christmas air mail in 1940, mail from the Western Desert, all were allowed to pass through without Dues being raised.

Just as John was about to embark on his final section - "Indications of Postage Due" - it was noticed that our time limit was fast approaching, so he kindly agreed to delay this section to the next meeting at Stampex on September 18.

On behalf of the Circle, Peter Andrews thanked both speakers for the two very different displays we had seen, with, as he put it, "something for everyone" - and coupled his thanks to the speakers with great gratitude to Keith and Kay Pogson. Members and guests were generous in their applause.

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