The Mount Currie Express one penny stamp

Facts about the stamp:

The stamps were sold in sheets of twelve - three vertical rows, four deep on what was white wove paper (now turning yellow with age), gummed and perforated. Each of the four rows reflected a slightly different stamp - reflecting a different design for each row.

The stamps were printed in Durban or Pietermaritzburg.

Only two sheets of twelve stamps (since broken up) and a few loose Mount Currie Express stamps are thought to be in existence.

The manager of Ballance and Goodliffe, W Wesley Darby. sold the stamps at his Mount Currie store for a few months in early 1874.

Documented pieces of the Mount Currie Express jigsaw:

On page 1 of Dower's book "The Early Annals of Kokstad", he says:

Our position was very isolated indeed. The nearest post office was Umzimkulu Drift, 50 miles away, from whence we received letters and papers once a month, if we chose to send them. Regular post there was none. Adam Kok did not believe in sending for letters; he thought he was better without them. His theory was "if letters bring good news they can wait, and if the news happens to be bad, well better they don't come at all. Why then send for letters?"

Page 10 of the paper by Mullins on the Mount Currie Express stamps refers to a letter dated 8th August 1889 from Emil Tamsen of Waterberg in the Transvaal.

Dear sir

I am in receipt of your circular re stamps. I have a small quantity of what I may safely call the most rare stamps in existence, as there are only two other persons in the world who have similar. The stamp is called the Mount Currie Express", and is a small stamp about half an inch square, printed in green, under the authority f Captain Adam Kok, the Griqua Chief, during the Griqua occupation of this country. I cam across these stamps among some papers of a very old resident, who has since deceased, and in whose Estate I was appointed Trustee. You will thus see that the stamps have to be sold for the benefit of the Estate, and as you quote no price for the stamps, they being, I expect unknown to you, I shall be glad if you will let me know what you will be prepared to give me at per stamp.

I am etc

In response the recipient writes that the manager of the Ballance and Goodliffe store at Mount Currie, W Wesley Darby, found that the native employed to get his store's mail was continually availed upon by locals to get their mail and that, in response, he got verbal permission from the Griqua Government to have these stamps struck and sold to the public nd that the stamp was recognised by the Griqua Government as being valued at one penny and were used between 1874 to 1877.

Darby (the manager of Ballance and Goodliffe) said the folloing about the Mount Currie Express stamps,

In reply to your correspondent's queries respecting the stamp referred to by him; viz a green one, with the words Ballance and Goodliffe inside a network frame. This stamp was issued by me when I was manager of the establishments belonging to Ballance and Goodliffe in the several localities in East Griqualand. I forget the exact date, but that an, if necessary, be easily ascertained; for it was prior to that country's annexation to the Cape Colony, and when the place looked as if it would go ahead. There was more wheat grown at that time in one year than there has been reaped in any subsequent ten since annexation; when the country did not groan under unfair and ruinous taxation; when there was not so much law, but quite as much justice. I think from the above you will be able to fix a date.

Image Right: Darby's provisional schedule of charges (click to see).

My reason for inaugurating the stamp was, that I found it necessary to have regular communication with my base of operations (Harding and Natal), and more or less regular posts to the subsidiary establishments in Griqualand itself. A considerable number of the then inhabitants were glad to avail themselves of my runners. I could not decently refuse to forward their letters, and the number of missives sent to me by outsiders to forward on led me to think that my firm might fairly seek to recoup a portion of their outlay from outsiders. I may say that my expectations were fully realised. The idea was not, of course, an original one, and I fancy that I must have got it from America. My charges were one penny for half an ounce, if stamped, or six pence is paid in cash. Of course the stamp was only good for Griqualand East, and was a thoroughly private affair; there being no Government postal department in Griqualand East.

I never can think of Griqualand East but with the feeling of deep regret that it is treated as it is by its great (so-called) protector.

I remain, yours

W Wesley Darby

PS As I have, much to my surprise, received several letters respecting this stamp, I have no objection to you publishing this letter in the local paper.