Rule Book for the Rural Postman, 1921
By Noel Campbell
The book is in poor condition with many pages loose, stained and marked which is not surprising as it is over 90 years old and was a working rule book for the first 30 years of that period. The inner pages of rules are preceded by a notice to all postmen including mounted and cycle postmen, a correction slip table, a table of contents and a definition of terms used. The last pages of the book contain a comprehensive index. The book’s 166 rules are punctuated by handwritten and typed notes of amendments and new rulings. The book is 18.5cm long and 13cm wide and was printed by His Majesty’s Stationery Office in 1921.
The postal service in 1921
At the time this book was issued to all postmen, the island of Ireland was still a part of the United Kingdom. Twenty six of the southern Irish counties gained a degree of independence after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921 and became known as the Irish Free State. The Free State began to rid the public service of all symbols of British rule in exchange for overtly Irish nationalist characteristics. Until the Irish postal service printed its own stamps, the British stamps still in use were to be overprinted in black with ‘Rialtas Sealadach na hEireann, 1922’ (‘The Provisional Government of Ireland’ in the English language). Letter boxes and mail cars were to be repainted and the Irish language was to be used whenever possible. Despite the obliteration of all things British, the changeover in the postal service did run smoothly and administration continued from London for some months.
What rules were postmen subject to?
The book contains 166 rules with many of them divided further into subsections. Postmen were notified of amendments and corrections to the general rules through the postal service publication Iris an Phuist. These amendments were glued into the book or handwritten on pages.
A rural postman was not to live ‘so far from the office as to prevent him from attending punctually at the scheduled hours’. Articles to be carried by a postman if necessary included a spring balance for weighing parcels. Mounted postmen were to purchase a horse and cart at their own expense if possible.
The postman was forbidden to wear private badges except for trade union badges. The Free State revised that particular rule to include badges of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association and An Fáinne (pin to show proficiency in the Irish language). Postmen were warned that intemperance in general, whether on or off duty, would endanger their retention in the Service. The postal service’s aversion to alcohol even extended to a ban on postmen being connected directly or indirectly with the ownership or management of an inn, public house or off license.
This book is held in the NMI’s Folklife Division reserve collection but is not on public display.
You can find more information in the following:
Reynolds, Mairead, A History of The Irish Post Office. Dublin: MacDonnell Whyte Ltd., 1983.
Dulin, C. I., Ireland's transition: the postal history of the transitional period, 1922-1925. Dublin: McDonnell Whyte Ltd., 1992.