1888 IRISH EXHIBITION OLYMPIA

by

George E. R. Ithell

Looking recently at the Daily Mail Ideal Homes Exhibition details prompted my memory of an item sent to me some time ago. This was a photo-copy of a parcel post receipt of 1888. I then pursued some facts of this little recorded event, but didn't do a 'full-blooded' effort owing to other committments at the time (five or six years ago). I came across my notes recently and it is possible that the Olympia Exhibition researchers may have some interest in my information. I'll have to apologise if its 'old hat', but I don't think it will be.

Originally Olympia was first used from 1886 and a futile attempt was made to arouse some interest for the centenary amongst some of my acquaintances in that area. The earlier use of this area would probably be under canvas and a more open-air spectacular be witnessed. The modern Olympia buildings have been extended since 1931 and have been in constance use for all such exhibitions.

This Irish Exhibition which opened on June 4th 1888, closed on October 27th 1888 and 'The Times' of February 3rd 1888 reported that..."The first list of patrons of the Irish Exhibition to be held at Olympia in May (opening, evidentally delayed) has just been issued and contains over 200 names of noblemen, prelates, M.P.'s, and of distinguished men in literature, science, art, and commerce which are representitive of the various political creeds of the United Kingdom. According to a statement just issued by the executive with the following objectives...(a) to place before the English public a clear view of the predominate industries of Ireland; (b) To awaken public interest in the efforts being made to revive her trade; (c) To exhibit to the many thousands of English persons who have never crossed the Irish Channel, somewhat of her deeply interesting and historical antiquarian treasures; (d) To illustrate the worth and significance of Irish art and, finally, to help moderate prejudices which are frequently tending to fetter the judgement, at the very foot of misunderstandings between people and people. It is further stated that the movement is entirely outside the area of politics, freed from all sectarian or class interest and initiated and undertaken with a worthy purpose".

A long list of the Executive Council and Trustees included many Irish peers, and the Countess of Aberdeen, was amongst those volunteering to manage a stall on a rota basis. 'The Times' reports on July 17th, that "Princess Mary, Duchess of Teck will be present and sell from the Marchioness of Salisbury's stall".

A July 26th report says, "that a sham fight, but very realistic takes place in the parade ground and with seven cannons in action,a drawback to the enjoyment was the inevitable noise and smoke, depicting a scene from the Indian Mutiny, of a siege of a village.

Another excerpt from the October 20th issue says, "For whatever the height to which discord runs amongst Irishmen, nobody denies that, at bottom, they are a warmhearted and kindly race and especially to children. A generous and graceful act by the Committee of the Irish Exhibition in defraying the cost of a free trip for the School of the Benevolent Society of St. Patrick. This Treat was enjoyed by the majority of the residents of this school, who qualify for this charity on being the children of the poor hard-working Irish parents living in London. A total of 450 are being cared for at this time".

'The Times' advertised on its front page of July 26th an Irish firm of Fitzgerald, Shirt Makers of 44, Patrick Street, Cork! The paper carried much news from this event and included many references to the "interesting finds of Greek remains after extensive research at the site of Olympia", amongst these dates were the 11th, 17th, and 22nd of October.

Picture not available.

A really scarce hand stamp, I wonder if it will ever turn up on a cover

Due to bomb damage during the war of 1939-45, the geography is altered and the Gratton Road Post Office was a casualty. At one time the road was a cul-de-sac, but access from Blythe Road is now possible. I couldn't find a resident who was familiar with the area before the War, but the site of the Post Office and general shop is still intact, but was a reasonable distance from the Olympia site.

An article was published in the issue of September 1929 of Gibbons Stamp Monthly by J. H. Daniels on "Postmarks used at Exhibitions in Great Britain, 1851-1925". No reference at all is made of this Irish Exhibition, and another he missed out, was an Irish sponsored Exhibition of three days in Croydon from March 19th 1888, to which the Government gave #1,000 as a grant. The latter show is understandable in not having any Post Office memento, but John Daniel's missing out the Olympia show is surprising.

Trusting that this information will be of some value.

Thanks George E. R. Ithell, this article was sent in, some time ago and Andrew has forwarded it on to me to use.

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© Exhibition Study Group 1992