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Blame it on the bees, and bizarre blazes

denis stamps.JPG

Why was it necessary for there to be two separate printings of the Nyasaland King George V Ten Pounder, as illustrated above?   


Unsold stamps from the January 1913 first printing were still available in March 1919, being stored in the Government building at the capital, Zomba.  


As a result of research at the National Archives (formerly the Public Records Office) all can now be revealed.


Official records confirm that the remaining unsold stamps of the first printing were destroyed by fire during the night of 17-18 February, 1919, with a somewhat bizarre explanation as to the cause of the fire.


Apparently the roof of the Government building was used as a hive by swarms of bees, and their honey was much sought after by the local native watchmen employed at night to remove them. They were given hurricane lamps and a dip to spray over the bees but this, unfortunately, spoilt the honey.


On the fateful night of 17-18 February 1919 a watchman climbed into the roof and, whilst attempting to smoke the bees out using unauthorised dry grass torches, he dropped a lighted match and set the whole building alight, destroying all the remaining stock of stamps, and thus the need for a second printing.


For the record, 96 sheets of the first printing (each 60 stamps in 5 rows of 12) were dispatched by De La Rue, London, to Nyasaland on the 18 January 1913 and issued on the 1 April 1913, with 347 sheets of the second printing being sent on the 20 March 1919, issue date unknown.     

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