The society were hosts to two members of the Galashiels-based Borders Philatelic Society and were treated to collections in what is termed ‘social philately’, that is items rather than stamps and covers are included, such as photographs, postcards and documents, which complement the story.
The first was entitled ‘Dutch airmail special flights’ covering the route from Holland to the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) in the 1930s, at the time the longest airmail route in the world, taking nine days to complete because the planes could not hold sufficient fuel to travel long distances, hence there were many stops.
Covers were shown carried by the various planes used by the Dutch airline KLM, such as Postjager, Fokker and Douglas, and because the first two broke down several times and one crashed, other arrangements had to be arranged for the mail, so even more interesting covers are available to collectors, including some recovered from crash sites.
There were postcards showing the planes used and a section of material from the Royal Dutch Airlines London-Melbourne air race in 1934.
The second display was a fascinating history of St Kilda, the remote island 100 miles west of mainland Scotland out in the Atlantic – the only double world heritage site in the UK.
With postcards, covers and documents, the guest gave an informative insight into what life was like on the desolate site from 1900 to 1930 when the remaining islanders were evacuated. In 1928 only 48 people lived there.
In the 1950s it became a weapons range and missile tracking station with military and commercial personnel resulting in many items of postal history for collectors to seek out.
Covers from the period 1900-30 were cancelled on the island but when it was utilised in the 1950s all mail was taken to various points on the mainland for cancellation, so even though the postmark was St Kilda, this was done either in Stranraer, Oban or South Uist.
In the 1960s a Perth-based firm won the contract to deliver mail by a Benbecula-St Kilda air-drop. The island is now administered by the National Trust for Scotland and what with the air-drop mail and trust staff, items are still sought after by collectors – and the society’s guest showed plenty of them.