by John Ineson
During my travels earlier this year I visited the world philatelic exhibition held at Prague in the Czech Republic, which attracted an impressive 45,000 visitors over three days. I had never seen so many people looking at the exhibits which came from 61 countries, and it was difficult to get close to the frames. Only one Scout exhibit and that was by our member Benito Bugallo of Spain who also attended the show. Women and children were admitted free, while the cost to male adults was 80 czk (£2.50) per day. Travel tickets for one day cost 100czk but 330czk for three days, even the Czechs cannot work this out! The keeper of the Royal Philatelic Collection, attended with a display including the legendary 2d blue Mauritius stamp of 1847. However, strict security measures meant that this and the other items from the Royal collection could be seen by only about 5000 visitors, who had to queue for up to four hours. On the Saturday during the show, the annual collectors fair took place with some 220 dealers selling Minerals, Coins, Telephone Cards, Banknotes, Postcards and Stamps.
I returned to Prague three weeks later to attend 18th meeting of the Czech Scout Collectors. This was very well attended with visitors numbering between 2-300 with some of our members from the U.K., Finland, Germany and Austria. Following this I visited the National Postal Museum where there was an exhibition to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the first Scout stamps and postal service run by the Scouts in 1918. However this was rather a disappointment as most of the material was modern, despite knowing that there were some real treasures in their archives including an inverted President Masaryk stamp.
Sold recently by Prestige Auctions of Australia was an exceptional example of runner mail smuggled out of Mafeking during the siege. This tiny letter sheet (folded to 52 x 62mm) to England with a Cape of Good Hope 1d stamp tied by a light "Crocodile Pools, South Africa" cancellation was written on 19th November 1899. Travelling via the northern route, it has the Bulawayo transit back stamp and then arrived at its destination, Halifax, England on February 25th 1900. Very few runner mail item are known from the earlier days of the siege and as the Mafeking overprint stamps were not issued until March 1900, this mail was underpaid and the letter shows the large "T" tax mark and the postage due of 5d. The message reads "We are both well and in good health. Mafeking is still flying the Union Jack". Estimated at Australian $500, it made $2700 (£1345, €1546, US$ 1875 at mid November rates)
I have recently purchased the front of a package front sent from the Boy Scout Association in London and addressed to Lord Baden-Powell, Outspan Hotel, Nyeri, Kenya. Posted on 12th January 1938, it was underpaid by 5 pence and so bears 50 cents Postage Due labels of Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika (as it was then known). When it arrived, Lady Baden-Powell wrote to Eileen Wade, her Secretary in England "Thanks so much for sending 'Mudley'. It came in this and though I don't mind a bit about paying the 5d for under stamping, ought the office stampers [sic] be advised to weigh letters for Africa!! It is 1d per half ounce isn't it!?"