Eynhallow (Holy Island) Primula (1974}

Eynhallow (Holy Island) [Local Post] – Primula (1974)

Eynhallow (Holy Island) Primula (1974}
Eynhallow (Holy Island) Primula (1974}

Eynhallow (Eyinhelga in Old Norse, meaning “Holy Isle”) is a small, presently uninhabited island, part of the Orkney Islands, off the north coast of mainland Scotland. It lies in Eynhallow Sound between Mainland, Orkney and Rousay. It is 75 hectares (0.29 square miles) in area. An unnamed skerry is situated approximately 330 feet (100 meters) to the north-east of the island, separated by Fint Sound. Sheep Skerry adjoins the southern end of the island.

There is no ferry to the island, although Orkney Heritage Society organizes a trip each July. Otherwise, visitors have to arrange their own transport to the island by private local boat hire. Access can be problematic, as there are strong tidal surges in the surrounding strait, squeezed between Mainland of Orkney and Rousay. These ferocious tidal races — known in the Orkney dialect as “roosts” — are at their most spectacular when the wind is in the northwest and a strong tide is running.

According to local folklore, Eynhallow was originally believed to be the summer home of the shape-shifting mer-people, the Finfolk. The island was wrested from them by the guile of an Orkney farmer, Guidman o’ Thorodale from Evie.

In the Orkneyinga Saga, the story is told of Olaf, son of Svein Asleifarson and ward of Kolbein Hruga; he was kidnapped from Eynhallow in 1155 and was most likely sent to Eynhallow to be educated by the monks.

At the center of the island, stands the ruins of a chapel, dating from the twelfth century or earlier, which may have formed part of an early Christian monastic settlement. The history of Eynhallow Church is mostly unknown but it might have been part of a monastery, maybe of the Benedictine order.  It was deserted before the Reformation (circa 1560). From the sixteenth century, the church was used as dwellings by a number of the islanders.

The later structural additions — a complex of thatched roof cottages — served to mask the church’s original role. Eynhallow had a population of 26 in 1841. In 1851, disease and death (possibly from typhoid) among the four families who lived there led to the evacuation of the island. The site was abandoned and the buildings were stripped of their roofs in order to make them uninhabitable. It was only then that it became clear that an ancient church lay at the core of the complex. The ruin was consolidated by W.R. Lethaby in 1897 and is now maintained by Historic Scotland.

The first of the Eynhallow local post “stamps” appeared in 1973. More than other island private posts previously mentioned on this blog, those of the “Holy Island” existed solely to separate collectors from their money as there has never existed any valid need for a local postal service. In my article about the labels using the name of Davaar Island, I mentioned Chris Feigenbaum and his Stampdile website. A little more research has led me to a Wikipedia page about Feigenbaum which describes him as “a colorful and controversial British businessman who was involved in a lifelong series of scandals in the world of philately.”

Having stated dealing in stamps as a child with his own shop in Paddington by the age of 18, in 1970 Feigenbaum was expelled from the Philatelic Traders Society — a noted trade organization for stamp dealers — for selling “labels resembling stamps” without indicating that they were not genuine postage stamps. The dispute was based on the status of stamps that Feigenbaum produced and marketed which he termed British locals, similar to those produced for the island of Lundy, but which the PTS saw as little more than tourist souvenir labels.

The following year, Feigenbaum was charged with 14 counts of receiving and dishonestly handling stamps and proofs stolen from the British Museum. James A. Mackay, a curator at the museum, and George Base were also charged in connection with the same matter. Feigenbaum, who had denied the charges, was cleared on the judge’s direction.

In 1979, Feigenbaum became involved in a dispute with the U.S. Customs Service about whether 20% duty applied to “gold” stamps of Staffa imported into the United States. The stamps were to commemorate the United States Bicentennial and were in sets of up to 13 priced at $20 each, the total retail price of the stamps being $5.2 million. Feigenbaum argued that as Staffa had a legitimate mail service the stamps were not liable for the duty. However, the mail service at Staffa, a remote uninhabited Scottish island, actually amounted to no more than a mail box on a jetty where letters could be mailed back to the mainland, weather permitting. As there were no permanent residents and visitors were invariably from the mainland in the first place, it was doubtful whether the mail service amounted to anything more than a tourist curiosity. Feigenbaum had the right to produce stamps marked Staffa in return for a fee paid to the island’s owner, who operated the postal service.

Feigenbaum is believed to have been behind the issue of stamps supposedly from the Indian state of Nagaland in the 1970s and 1980s. Gold stamps, similar to those of Staffa, were also produced for Nagaland. In 1985, Phillips auctioneers disposed of bulk lots of Nagaland, Eynhallow and Dhufar in their September 26th sale, causing Gibbons Stamp Monthly to comment: “…not the sort of material one normally associates with Phillips sales. Most were offered in considerable quantities (several thousand), estimates were very low”. Stamps of Staffa, Nagaland, Eynhallow and Dhufar are still commonly found together in collections today, indicating their probable common origin


In 1984, Feigenbaum attempted to list Stanley Gibbons, of which he was Chairman, on the Unlisted Securities Market in London but the attempt failed after newspaper disclosures about his previous business problems. The Times described the attempted float as “disastrous” and reported Feigenbaum’s resignation as Chairman of Stanley Gibbons shortly thereafter. The London Stock Exchange had refused to allow dealings to begin and Managing Director David Stokes was quoted as saying in The Times that “…the press comment obviously ruined the reputation of Mr Feigenbaum in the eyes of the Stock Exchange.” Feigenbaum sold his approximately 13.4% stake in the company to companies controlled by Paul Fraser in 1989.

In the mid-1980s, Feigenbaum, and companies he and his associates controlled, were named in litigation relating to tax shelter schemes in the United States. The companies controlled included companies registered in Liberia for tax reasons. According to The Sunday Times, Feigenbaum and others had created a complicated scheme involving what they called “stamp masters” (printing plates) used for producing stamps of Scottish islands, which were transferred between a succession of companies in order to obtain a tax advantage. The judge in the case, Whitman Knapp, described the arrangements as “abusive tax shelters” and a “conspiracy to perpetrate a tax fraud”.

The ruling of Judge Knapp was upheld on appeal and the appeal judges commented that the “…meaning of his decision comes through loud and clear — the tax shelter sold by the appellants was a sham and the appellants knew it.” The appellants were enjoined from continuing to offer the Philatelic tax shelter for sale.

In the late 1980s, Feigenbaum, as Chairman of the Philatelic Distribution Corporation was involved in a complicated legal case alleging fraud in relation to a contract with the government of Tuvalu, formerly the Ellice Islands, relating to the deliberate production of stamps with errors for sale to collectors at inflated prices. According to the New York Times, “P.D.C. produced 14,000 deliberate errors: stamps with inverted centers, missing elements or perforation varieties, which it sold for inflated prices”.

In May 1989, the British High Court ordered Feigenbuam to hand over all stocks of Tuvalu stamps after the island authorities claimed that he was printing stamps without permission. British police had already seized seven million stamps of which 1.5 million were thought to contain errors. Feigenbaum was accused of not complying with the court order in June 1989 and the Tuvalu Attorney General, David Ballantyne, asked that Feigenbaum be imprisoned for contempt of court. He was fined £3,000 and sentenced to jail but immediately released on bail pending an appeal. The appeal was heard in October 1989 when the fine for £3,000 was upheld but the jail sentence and costs of around £100,000 were set aside. The case made The Times law reports.

The matter eventually came to a head in a 1992 fraud trial when, after two months of evidence and weeks of legal argument, Feigenbaum was cleared on the judge’s direction as there was insufficient evidence to convict. Feigenbaum argued that he had contractual permission to produce the varieties.

Many of the local post stamps associated with Clive Feigenbaum were printed by Format International Security Printers Ltd. (FI), a company that was incorporated on August 4, 1967, and which Feigenbaum was Chairman from 1988 until the firm began liquidation proceedings on July 31, 1989. Format produced many of the stamp issues handled by the Philatelic Distribution Corporation and its predecessors Philatelists Limited and Philatelists 1980 Limited. Format also handled many stamp issues for the British Crown Agents as well who was one of their main customers. The British Crown Agents actually had an office and storage room that held special Crown Agent watermarked paper used for the production of their stamp issues. The liquidation took almost eleven years when the company was dissolved on February 22, 2001. Format International printed stamps for over a hundred countries including numerous Commonwealth countries. .

Clive Fergenbaum died in 2007 at the age of 68.

The only reference I’ve found in regards to today’s “stamp” was on Fergenbaum’s own Stampdile Limited website which still seems to sell this stuff. It is the only Eynhallow entry in my collection, obtained through a packet of “assorted worldwide stamps” (as were most of the other local post items that I’ve included on A Stamp A Day thus far). One can immediately discern that the printing quality of this label is quite poor; even the “cancellation” is printed rather than hand-stamped. At any rate, this is part of a set of eight issued in 1974 depicting flowers — a one-pence primula in this case. (Stampdile has the entire set for sale. mint and perforated, for £4.25, and a “set of 7 imperf progressive color proofs comprising the 4 individual colors plus 2, 3 and all 4-color composites unmounted mint” for £24.50, if anyone is interested).

The word primula is the Latin feminine diminutive of primus, meaning first (prime), applied to flowers that are among the first to open in spring It refers to a genus of mainly herbaceous flowering plants in the family Primulaceae and include the familiar wildflower of banks and verges, the primrose (P. vulgaris). Other common species are P. auricula (auricula), P. veris (cowslip) and P. elatior (oxlip). These species and many others are valued for their ornamental flowers. They have been extensively cultivated and hybridized — in the case of the primrose — for many hundreds of years. Primula are native to the temperate northern hemisphere, south into tropical mountains in Ethiopia, Indonesia and New Guinea, and in temperate southern South America. Almost half of the known species are from the Himalayas.

Primula has about 500 species in traditional treatments, and more if certain related genera are included within its circumscription

Primula is a complex and varied genus, with a range of habitats from alpine slopes to boggy meadows. Plants bloom mostly during the spring, with flowers often appearing in spherical umbels on stout stems arising from basal rosettes of leaves; their flowers can be purple, yellow, red, pink, blue, or white. Some species show a white mealy bloom (farina) on various parts of the plant. Many species are adapted to alpine climates.

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