Christmas mail arrangements in the 1970s

by Gavin McGuffie, Catalogue Manager

As the season to be jolly comes round once again, chance would have it that I have been getting a section of the Royal Mail Archive concerning Christmas arrangements ready for publication on the BPMA’s online catalogue. All being well the material will go live at our end of February upload. These are files which have gone through the Second Review procedure and have been selected for permanent preservation.

The ‘Christmas arrangements’ files make up a sub-series within a new POST class, POST 157, which consists of registered files created by the Postal Operations Department. There are 27 files in all containing documents from 1942 to 1981 but mainly concentrating on the 1970s when the files were created.

I thought I’d share with blog readers a couple of things that have caught my eye going through this material.

One matter that came up on several occasions in the 1970s particularly from the Post Office Users’ National Council (POUNC) under Lord Peddie was the idea of introducing a concessionary rate for Christmas postage (POST 157/36). By early 1975 Director of Postal Operations Denis Roberts felt the Post Office “need seriously to consider whether we can produce a practical scheme to sustain Christmas postings and stimulate a ‘the Post Office cares’ feeling” focussing on locally sent Christmas cards. However by May 1976 the Post Office Board had agreed “there would be no concessionary rate for Christmas cards in 1976”, a decision they felt was vindicated by the experience of Australia Post who had trialled a concessionary rate for Christmas 1975.

The poor state of affairs between the Post Office and unions at the end of the 1970s is exemplified by disagreements as to what services should be provided over the Christmas holiday period (POST 157/41-2). The unions argued that 27 December should be designated a Post Office holiday and that the final collection on 31 December should take place at noon, demands that the Post Office refused to accede to. The action on both days was sporadic with workers not wanting to lose pay. In a situation report for 27 December D E Remmington of Central Postal Control observed: “While services are being provided over large areas of the country, the fact that many major centres are not operating has limited the traffic available for delivery.”

Telex reporting the effect of the 27 December action on the South Eastern Postal Region

Telex reporting the effect of the 27 December action on the South Eastern Postal Region

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