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8th March 1998

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Junior Times

Hello Children,

Just like one of our young readers who had sent us the article about her puppy, we all experience sad incidents in our lives especially when someone close to us leaves us to go abroad or dies. Hard as these things are for us to bear, we have no choice but to face upto them.

One way of overcoming our sadness is to learn to let go of our hurt and do something constructive with ourselves. Or else try to talk to someone about your grief. If you have lost someone who's near and dear to you then write to us about your experience and how you learnt to cope with your grief.

Until next week,

Aunty Sunshine

Front Page

Cautious Mr.Bullfinch

Mrs. Bullfinch was eager to try the new feeding platform in the bare beechnut tree. But not Mr. Bullfinch!

'How do we know it's safe?' he kept asking.

'We don't,' his wife replied. 'But we do know it's not safe to starve! 'Come on!'

'Not yet,' said Mr. Bullfinch. 'Wait a bit - '

Just then two big blackbirds flew up to the platform and began eating greedily. Along came sparrows, a chaffinch, and a big brown thrush. A woodpecker landed beside them, and cried 'Suet!' in a happy voice.

'Everything will be gone,' wailed Mrs. Bullfinch. 'We won't even get a taste!'

But still Mr. Bullfinch kept saying, 'Wait!'

At last the other birds finished eating and flew off, looking fat and well pleased with themselves. Then Mr. Bullfinch moved cautiously up the tree, tilting his head and hopping from branch to branch.

When he finally did land on the platform, and beckoned Mrs. Bullfinch to join him, she went soaring up, happy to be in the middle of such a feast at last.

Mr. Bullfinch, finding that nothing dangerous happened, was even happier than his wife.

And happiest of all was a little boy, inside his window watching the two birds.

'Why, Daddy and I only put our new feeding platform up last night,' he whispered to himself. 'And already two hard-to-coax bullfinches are out there having their breakfast!'

Puppy Love

Dear Puppy Rocky
How can I ever forget you,
You and your mother (Rummy) were our joy,
How sadly we miss you, Dear Rocky

Rummy misses you,
We miss you.
How mischievous you were,
You were our pet,
Our ever loving pet.

Six months old little puppy,
Blackish tiny puppy,
We all loved you.

How sad to say that we missed you,
Rummy is alone and searching for you,
We can't see her tears but we know she cries,
Dear Rocky, how much we loved you.

Nikitha Perera,

New Town,



The Early Days

Today let's have a look at the early days of stamps both here and abroad.


The honour of introducing the adhesive stamp goes to an Englishman, Sir Rowland Hill who is credited with the title the 'Father of Penny Postage'. Prior to the introduction of Penny Postage, the recipient had to pay the postage according to the number of sheets or enclosures in the letter. The rates were such that only the well to do were able to communicate by letter. There was much opposition when Rowland Hill suggested certain reforms to the postal services in Britain way back in 1836.

"Perhaps this difficulty (of using stamped envelopes in certain cases) might be obviated by using a bit of paper just large enough to bear the stamp and covered at the back with a glutinous wash, which the bringer might, by the application of a little moisture, attach to the back of the letter so as to avoid the necessity of re-directing it," he wrote in his pamphlet advocating postal reform.

The world's first adhesive stamp was the Penny Black which went on sale on 1 May1840 and became valid for postage on 6 May . A profile of Queen Victoria was used in the first ever one penny adhesive stamp.

Sir Rowland Hill was remembered by Sri Lanka on his death centenary on 27 August 1979 when a Rs. 3 Stamp was issued bearing his portrait alongside the first stamp issued in Sri Lanka.

United States

Act of Congress, 3 March 1847 states:

".... and be it further enacted that, to facilitate the transportation of letters by mail, the Postmaster General be authorized to prepare postage stamps which when attached to any letter or packet, shall imagebe evidence of pre-payment of the postage chargeable on such letter."

The first two official US postage stamps were issued on 1 July 1847. They portrayed the first US Postmaster General and Father of the American Postal Service, Benjamin Franklin and the first US President George Washington. Soon these small, pictorial squares had become the world's window on America. Since 1847, these patriots and statesmen have appeared on many US stamps.

Sri Lanka

Seventeen years after the release of the first stamps in Great Britain, on 1 April 1857, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) issued its first postage stamp. The value of the stamp was 6 pence to pre-pay the first letter rate to England. This was followed by a half penny stamp and within the next two years, nine more stamps in the denominations of 1,2,4,5,8,9 and 10 pence and 1 shilling 9 pence and 2 shillings were released. All the stamps bore the portrait of Queen Victoria who was Ceylon's ruler too. They were printed by Perkins Bacon & Co Ltd. Two of these stamps (4d and 1sh 9d) were featured in the 50 cent and Rs. 2.50 stamps issued on 2 December1982 to mark the 125th anniversary of the first postage stamp.

imageIn 1872 when Ceylon adopted a decimal currency of 100 cents to the Rupee, 10 stamps ranging from 2 cents to 96 cents and a Rs. 2.50 stamp were issued. The values were tied to direct conversion of pence to cents.

A new series of 11 stamps featuring the profile of King Edward VII in the denominations ranging from 2 cents to Rs. 2.25 was issued in 1903. In 1912 the portrait of King George V who had succeeded Edward VII was used.

It was on1 May 1935 that the first pictorial stamp (02 cts depicting a rubber tapper) was issued. An inset of the King appeared on the right hand corner.

The General Post Office (GPO) in the heart of Colombo Fort is the centre of the country's postal administration. One of the finest buildings in Colombo, it was designed and built by Herbert Frederic Tomalin of the Public Works Department (PWD). The construction work began in October 1891 and it took four years to complete the building. It was opened on 22 August 1895.

A Re. l stamp depicting the GPO building was issued in August 1995 to mark its centenary.

Postal Service

image image image image

The Postal Department was set up in 1815. E. Blaterman was the first Postmaster General. Six post offices were set up by him - Colombo, Galle, Jaffna, Mannar, Matara and Trincomalee. Four stamps issued on 26 December 1990 to mark the completion of 175 years of postal service in Sri Lanka, depicted the early days.

Re. 1 stamp featured a letter box used at the Galle Post Office in 1904. The old fashioned letter box which is being preserved in Galle was in red, the accepted colour of postal service throughout the world. Rs. 2 stamp showed a postal runner (1815) carrying the mail bag in one hand and a spear with a bell attached in the other for his protection. Transport facilities were almost non-existent at the time the Postal Department was set up.

The horse drawn mail coach - the first in Asia - inaugurated in 1832 was featured in the Rs. 5 stamp. The Rs. 10 stamp had a picture of the Nuwara Eliya Post Office which was built in 1894 on British architectural style. It remains one of the most attractive buildings in the hill town to this day.

The postal service which intially commenced operations with only a handful of ofices had expanded to cover 716 post offices (180 post offices and 536 sub-post offices) by the time the country gained independence in 1948. Today the network comprises of 4,221 offices 573 post offices, 3452 sub-post offices and 196 private agency post offices.

Oh please Dad, can we have a cat?

Most toddlers love cuddly tiger cubs and Samantha Clark is no exception. The difference is that her furry friends are not the soft toy variety - she plays with the real thing. Her father, Giles Clark, is head cat-keeper at Paradise Wildlife Park in Broxbourne, Hertforshire, and that means there is usually one or more tiger cubs roaming around the house. "They always steal my toys," moans Samantha, three, who otherwise seems unfazed at sharing her home with playmates which in just a few months will weigh about 20 stone.

"They gain a stone a month during the early stages of their development and eventually will weigh between 40 and 50 stone," says Mr Clark, who is currenly babysitting a pair of three-month old brothers.

"We brought these two from a private collection in Ireland a few weeks ago.

"At this stage they are still friendly and open to human contact. The point about rearing tiger cubs at home is that I will still be able to walk into their enclosure at the zoo and touch and handle them, even when they are fully grown."

Genghis and Tamair (Mr Clark always names the tigers in relation to their native country) have already been weaned by their mother. Often, however, Mr Clark will take charge of tiger cubs at a much earlier stage and bottle feed them at home. "When Samantha was a baby, I was getting up in the night to feed her one hour, and having to do the same thing with the cubs the next."

At 19, Mr. Clark is probably the youngest head cat-keeper in the country, and his affinity with these playful but still wild beasts is astounding. He sleeps with Genghis and Tamair in the front room of his parent's house, and even though they are past the stage of bottle feeding, he still fetches milk for them when they wake up hungry at four in the morning. The mixture is a base of the same type of milk used for rearing puppies, with added vitamins, calcium and cod-liver oil.

Soft baby brushes are used on their fur, until they are old enough to groom themselves. Discipline is instilled at an early age, and when Genghis of Tamair bare their claws, Mr Clark is quick to discipline them with a sharp word and a tap on the nose. He says: "They are not circus animals, and I'm not here to teach them to perform tricks. But for safety reasons they can be trained not to harm people. They are still wild animals and it's important that they are allowed to play rough and tumble, and even bite me, but they are disciplined enough never to bite so hard that they draw blood."

Nibbling and biting are part of the tigers' playful social behaviour, but Mr. Clark is still careful to leave the cubs in peace when they are eating. When there is food around even these doe-eyed youngsters are likely to become aggressive if you disturb them. As well as the milk compound, he feeds the cubs a mixture of meat -chicken, rabbit or horse - and blood. "Their basic instincts are still there, and being hand-reared won't changed that," he says.

Without a properly-balanced diet, tiger cubs can suffer all sorts of health problems. At the early stages, calcium and phosphates are most important because their bones, teeth and claws are developing so quickly, and without sufficient amount they are prone to rickets.

An imbalance of the correct minerals and vitamins can also lead to cubs developing cataract-like symptoms, which can be reversed as long as you get them back on the right diet. "Unfortunately there is no course you can go on to learn exactly what is needed at which stage of their development," Mr Clark says. "I've hand-reared nine tigers at home, as well as ones I've looked after at the park, and it's simply a matter of learning from experience."

Hand-rearing enables him to have imtimate contact with the animals once they are fully grown, and on occasion this close relationship can save their life. A year ago, Bruno, a three-year-old Bengal tiger who weighed 26 stone, became severely ill with pneumonia. He was on oxygen, had to be injected every two hours, and had to be prevented from sleeping on his side, where there was a danger he would drown in the fluid from his own lungs. " I slept in the compound with Bruno at the wildlife park for nine nights," Mr Clark says. "There was no other way to look after him."

Last Christmas there was a similar emergency situation when Turkana, a four-month-old lion cub, went into shock after a series of hernia operations. "Normally I would have stayed at the park with him," says Mr Clark, "but it was mid-winter and I didn't fancy having to spend Christmas Day outside, so I brought him home instead."

The cubs will live at home with Mr Clark until they are about four months old, but the quality of their lives in captivity will be greatly improved by this initial human contact. Mr Clark can take his tigers on long walks arond the wildlife park, introduce them to other animals, and even let them swin freely in the large open pond during the summer.

"Not everyone believes in hand rearing," he admits, "but these animals have been born outside their natural state anyway. Building a close, personal relationship with them from the start simply means you can extend their territory in captivity, and allow them to gain greater stimulation from their surroundings."

Mr Clark proudly reels off the names of the tiger and lion cubs he has reared. He was particularly fond of Nikka, a Bengal tiger, whom his mother woke up with at the end of her bed one morning. "Nikka was very tame, and became like one of the family," says Mrs Clark. "Giles used to sleep with her in his room, so she basically had the run of the house."

Not all the cubs are as well-behaved as Nikka, however, and several, tiger cubs later, Mr Clark's parents have had to get rid of the settee from the living room. "They tore straight through the upholstery, " Mr Clark says. The family has two armchairs left, but they still end up sitting on the floor - the baby tigers like to curl up in the chairs for their midday naps.

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