ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, April 01, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 44
Funday Times- Our Heritage funday times logo

The first stamp issue

The first stamp was included in two stamps released to mark the centenary of the issue of the first postage stamp in Ceylon

Exactly 150 years ago, on April 1, 1857, the first postage stamp was issued in Ceylon, as Sri Lanka was then known. Its value was 6 pence - the currency at the time being the same as what was used in England, since Ceylon was under British rule then. The stamp was to pre-pay the letter rate to England by ship for half-ounce letters.

The purple brown stamp with the head of Queen Victoria, the ruling British monarch at the time, was printed on blue paper with a 'star' watermark and without perforations. The stamps had to be cut from a sheet and sold to the public since there were no perforations. The first perforated stamp came four years later - in 1861.

The first step to issue postage stamps was taken in 1854 by the acting Postmaster General, G. G. Frazer when he ordered 60,000 copies of a new purple 6d coloured stamp released in the UK depicting the embossed head of Queen Victoria.

It was followed by another order for the stamp to be overprinted with the word 'Ceylon.’

After the release of the first stamp, others appeared at regular intervals. Four stamps in the denominations of 5d - chestnut, 6d - brown, 10d - orange/vermillion and 1sh - dull violet were released on July 2, 1857. Two more (1d - blue & 2d - green) followed. Half ounce being the internal postal rate for printed matter like newspapers, a 1/2d lilac was issued in October 1857. All these carried the portrait of Queen Victoria.


Sri Lanka's third Prime Minister

Independent Sri Lanka's third Prime Minister, Sir John Kotelawala was born on April 4, 1897 at Attygalle near Piliyandala in the outskirts of Colombo. Following the resignation of Dudley Senanayake due to ill health, he became Prime Minister on October 12, 1953 and served until April 11, 1956. He dissolved Parliament ahead of time and lost the general election to the newly-formed Mahajana Eksath Peramuna led by S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike.

Sir John Lionel Kotelawala

The third Prime Minister in a row from the United National Party (Rt. Hon. D. S. Senanayake was the first and Dudley Senanayake was the second), Sir John was strongly pro-Western and anti-Marxist. Sri Lanka's entry into the United Nations happened during his time as Prime Minister.

Having had his education at Royal College and at Christ Church, Cambridge, he joined the Ceylon Light Infantry (1923) and rose to be a Colonel (1942). He was a member of the State Council from 1931, was acting Minister of Agriculture & Lands (1933-36) and was Minister of Transport & Works (1936-47).

After winning the Dodangaslanda seat in the first election to the House of Representatives (1947) he retained the portfolio in the D. S. Senanayake Cabinet. Though he expected to be Prime Minister after D. S. Senanayake's death in 1952, he was not called upon to form the government.

D. S. Senanayake's son, Dudley (Minister of Agriculture & Lands) was appointed Prime Minister and Sir John continued as a minister. Sir John is remembered for his association with the Minneriya irrigation scheme and the Laxapana hydro-electricity scheme. He was knighted in 1948 and made a Privy Councillor in 1954.

He left the political scene after his party's defeat in 1956 (he was one of eight sitting UNP members to win) and retired to England leaving his palatial bungalow and several hectares of land in Ratmalana to the State, after his death. The building now houses Sri Lanka's Defence Academy named after him.

The Government has just decided to raise it to university status.
Sir John died on October 2, 1980. A stamp was issued in his honour on his second death anniversary in 1982.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.