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Digital Subscriptions > iScot Magazine > December/January 2019 > Keeping you posted

Keeping you posted

The postage stamp is a flimsy thing No thicker than a beetle’s wing Yet it will roam the world for you Exactly where you tell it to.
by Vivien Martin
Green Post box with V R insignia

YOU PROBABLY buy more stamps at Christmas than at any other time of the year. In fact, you possibly only buy stamps at this time of the year and for the rest of the time send emails and texts, or make phone calls.

Yet, surprising as it may seem, the introduction of the humble postage stamp was a huge revolution in communications. In a world without phones, or the time or money to travel, letters were of real importance. There was no other way to keep in touch with friends and family. And in Scotland, as families were being scatered to the four winds, whether through emigration to far-lung countries such as Canada or Australia, or to the slums of the growing industrial cities in search of work, letters and postcards were a vital link for families separated from their loved ones.

The Postage Act of 1839 ushered in a major reform of the Royal Mail with a whole new postal service, known as the ‘uniform penny post’, or simply the ‘penny post’. Shortly afterwards, in May 1840, came the world’s first postage stamps. With a uniform rate-for-weight service, gone were the days of payment by number of pages and distance travelled.

The Royal Mail didn’t start as a public service, however (I suspect the ‘royal’ in the title is a giveaway to that). With the Union of the Crowns in 1603, James VI, son of Mary Queen of Scots, became James I of England. Barely pausing to pack, he upped sticks and moved his court to London. Yet he had no intention of leting Scotland go its own way. He still needed to know what was going on up there. Just as importantly he needed the Scottish privy council to know he was in control. He might not be breathing down their necks, but he certainly wasn’t going to let them run the country as they saw it. Communication was vital. Consequently he established a ‘royal mail’ service between London and Edinburgh.

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About iScot Magazine

Celebrate good times c’mon! iScot celebrates its 4th birthday and what better way than a bumper 136 page cornucopia of articles, short stories, science, history, movies commentary, puzzles and much much more