Transition Period. [076]

The time period between the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty (6 December 1921) and the ratification of the Free State government ( November 1922) is often referred to as the Transition Period. This period is often extended in both directions – some start with the 1916 Rising and include the Dublin Convention and the “Black and Tans”. Others expand the latter years to include the stabilization after the Irish Civil War (1923), and some even yet further extend it to included the assassination of Vice-President O’Higgins in 1927. This mainly because the Civil War did not end in a decisive battle, but rather died out after a series of engagements. Some of these occurred many years later.

The transition period is significant to the collector of Postal History since the change from British rule is reflected in Post Office actions. We see the formation of a new government with new managers, new stamps, new problems, and use of a new (yet old) language. Decisions made in this period influenced (and continue to influence) later governments.

Examples of the collectible stamps and covers from this period as well as later issues that commerate the people and events includedincluded:

1916 EASTER RISING: The 1916 Rebellion was one in a series of rebellions that happened about one per generation. The General Post Office in Dublin was the focus of the fighting. This one was different in that the British executed the senior leaders without judicial review and maltreated prisoners. This changed the opinion of the public to be supportive of the rebels verus the previous indifference. The leader of The 1916 Rising, Paidraig Pearse, is shown on one of a 1966 series issued on the 50th Anniversary se-tenant with the Post Office in flames. Seven of the leaders are commemorated in this set, not only Pearse.(Figure 1)


THE IRISH CONVENTION: This was a diplomatic series of meetings between July 1917 and March 1918 aimed at a peaceful solution to “The Irish Problem”. The goal was to establish “Home Rule” – a limited separation. Meetings were held in both Dublin and London, and was considered a failure, although it set a precedent for later talks. (Figures 2 & 3).


THE GUERILLA WAR: Between 1918 and 1922, a guerilla war was fought between the Irish Republicans and the British forces. A force of former British soldiers, known as the “Black and Tans” because of their uniforms, committed atrocities, which was reciprocated with more violence.(Figure 4)

In 1920, Kevin Barry was the first Irish republican executed by the British since the 1916 rebellion.(Figure 5)


START OF THE PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT: The Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed 6 December 1921 creating a Provisional Government (Rialtas Sealdac na h’Eireann). Overprinted British stamps were used on mail.(Figure 6)


TURNOVER OF THE POST OFFICE TO THE IRISH: The Provisional Irish government took control of the Post Office on 1 May 1922, Easter weekend. The first covers are from 5 May due to the long weekend and the Easter Holiday.(Figure 7) 


THE CIVIL WAR: This was fought mainly between 28 June 1922 and 24 May 1923 by anti-Treaty forces and those favoring the Free State. The main issues were the exclusion of Northern Ireland and inclusion of the Loyalty Oath to the King of England, along with other issues. Along with the loss of life, the destruction of the Irish Archives has created problems for historians.(Figure 8)



Michael Collins was the charismatic leader of the Irish who served in many leadership roles. At the time of his death, he was both the President of the Provisional Government and Commander-in-Chief of the National Army. He was killed in an ambush in Co. Cork on 22 August 1922.(Figure 9)


THE FREE STATE: This autonomous dominion, Saorstát Eireann, similar to Canada, was the creation of the 1921 Treaty. The Irish had control of local government, army and police, but the British remained as overall rulers. British Forces remained in several naval bases until 1937.(Figure 10)

FIRST IRISH STAMPS: A series of stamps, known as the Map and Sword of Light was issued starting on 6 December 1922. They were used through the 1940’s becoming one of the longest running series of stamps, although the paper watermark was changed from SE to E in 1940 to reflect the removal of the Free State. The country’s name was also changed to Eire (Irish for Ireland) instead of The Free State. This stamp was controversial since it did not show the border with Northern Ireland. The designer claimed this was a geographic rather than a political map.(Figure 11)



Kevin O’Higgins was the Vice-President and Minister of Justice who was murdered on 10 July1927. He was the founder of the An Garda Siochana, the Irish National Police Force. Shown here is a “mourning cover” on official mail with the traditional black border.(Figure 12)

One of the most complete studies of the philately of this period is Ireland – Transition The Postal History of the Transitional Period 1922-1925 by Dr. Cyril Dulin. In addition, articles on specific topics can be found in back issues of The Revealer.