The Four Masters

The four masters stamp, an illustration with celtic design and scribes working on text


In 1924, a design for a stamp called the ‘Four Masters’ was received by Revenue from an artist called Richard King. It was kept on file until 1944 when designs for new definitive stamps were being sought to replace the existing ‘Éire’ and ‘Sword of Light’ stamps. King submitted a revised design, this time featuring a single ‘Master’.

Bulmer Hobson, who oversaw the printing of postage stamps, was extremely critical of the new design. He was also very annoyed that the Department of Posts and Telegraphs had not consulted with the Stamping Branch about it, as would have been normal practice.

This outburst of indignation may have been prompted by a fit of pique on Hobson’s part. He had submitted a design for the stamp and separate designs for a series postcards, all of which had been rejected. His designs were based on photographs he had taken in Kerry and featured panoramic vistas and architectural details of Muckross House.

In February 1944, Bulmer Hobson wrote to a senior Revenue colleague to complain that the Stamping Branch had not been consulted about the design of the ‘Four Masters’ stamp that had recently been approved by the Minister for Posts & Telegraphs. He goes on to say that the approved design is ‘better adapted to adorn a school exercise book than to make a creditable postage stamp’. He finishes by suggesting that the design is ‘of so elementary a character’ that there is no point in sending an artist to London to cooperate with the engraver of the plate that would be used to print the stamp.

For more information, see Exhibitions.