The Fitzpatrick-Thomas letter of 1840

Posted in Dublin on the 8th May 1840, this short letter (available from An Post in a souvenir booklet which also includes a beautiful facsimile) gives – at first glance – little hint of its philatelic and social importance but a closer examination reveals something rather special. The famous Penny Black only became valid for postage on the 6th May and arrangements for distributing the stamp in Ireland mean that instances of early Irish usage are very scarce indeed. This letter is the very first clear and unambiguous use of the Penny Black on an Irish letter.

What makes it even more interesting is the story behind the letter. The background to postal reform and the personal family history that links the writer, a clergyman in rural Cavan with the tragic death of a young man in India, is revealed through what must rank as one of the most important items in Irish postal history.

The special booklet, produced by An Post’s Museum & Archive section, is available for sale at €8.50 from the GPO and online at