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Robert Burns

by Bonnie & Roger Riga

newf.jpg (13407 bytes)One of the things most cinderella collectors like about their hobby is that there is usually a good story behind a cinderella, if you can figure it out. Such is the case with the Robert Burns labels from Scotland. They were the result of national pride - and indignation - in the protest-laden 1960's.

When the British Post Office announced a stamp honoring Shakespeare to be issued in 1964, and declined to issue a stamp for the Scotsman, Robert Burns, protest was swift. The story has it that Miss Wendy Wood, a fervent admirer of Burns and his works, began stamping envelopes with the slogan "If Shakespeare, why not Burns?" Not willing to stop there, she designed and printed her own stamps in several designs on a hand-operated press. These she used to mail letters to the Prime Minister, members of Parliament and the Postmaster General. Using only her own stamps on the letters, she reasoned that the Post Office would either accept the mail or make the Prime Minister pay the postage. The Scottish National Party offered for a small fee their own Robert Burns propaganda stamp bearing the slogan "Free Scotland" to be used alongside the Shakespeare stamp.

Printing nearly 30,000 stamps, Miss Wood perforated some of them with a sewing machine. Others were imperf. The protest was successful. When the British Post Office announced that they would issue stamps honoring Robbie Burns, Miss Wood turned her printing plates over to the Postmaster of Edinburgh.

The best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley - but not for Miss Wendy Wood. She proved that protest works and we still have her stamps to prove it.

This column first appeared in Scott Stamp Monthly and has been edited for online presentation.
This page was last updated July 9, 2016.
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