Forerunners – Unionist Labels 1912-1914. [096]

Nationalists in Ireland were not the only ones to use propaganda labels in the early 1900’s. The Northern Imperialists followed suit. They produced the Imperial Union labels of 1912 in orange, yellow-green, and emerald green. (Figure 1) In preparation for the Home Rule bill of 1912 Prime Minister Asquith declared that Ireland should have her own postal system. This was supported by the Post Master General of the day. In anticipation of the passing of this bill the Unionists of Belfast threatened that they would set up their own government in the North and issue their own stamps. The bill was rejected by the House of Lords, even so the labels were printed. It is unusual that like the Fenian stamps these have a female harpist in center of the design. There the resemblance ends, however, for the wording is “Provisional Government of Ireland”, at top, with “IMPERIAL UNION” at bottom. It is not clear what use was made of these labels after publication. (Figures 1-3)

It became a foregone conclusion that the Home Rule bill would become law when it was next brought before Parliament. Certain elements in Ulster prepared to resist. The Ulster Volunteer Force was set up, and propaganda labels were issued once more. These are known as the Anti-Home Rule labels of 1914. Their purpose was, obviously, to raise funds. There were three large stamps, two with a bust of Mr Carson, a leading proponent, and the third with an Ulster shield and the words “We Shall Not Have Home Rule” (Figures 4 + 5).. A one penny orange stamp with the shield of Ireland (Figure 6).  and two 1 shilling orange stamps with the Red Hand of Ulster exist. One of the one shilling stamps is incribed “South Belfast” (Figure 7).   and the other “East Down”.


“Stamps with an Irish Story”, Rev. Brennan, John, D.F. Newsletter, Vol.2.,No.17, Winter 1974.

Hibernian Handbook and Catalog of the Postage Stamps of Ireland, Hamilton-Bowen, Roy, 2014.

The Revealer, numerous articles.