Mauritius @50: Political and economic independence

Today, 12th March 2018, Mauritius celebrates the 50th anniversary of its independence. This blog post is a tribute to our march for our political independence and to the remarkable economic progress we’ve made in just over half a century. It will feature several aspects of our economic and political history, through our philatelic heritage. Another blog post will highlight various features towards the building of a Mauritian nation, again through the lens of our philatelic heritage.

 Background

Although Mauritius was known to Arab and Portuguese navigators since the 15th Century, the first permanent settlement was established by the Dutch in 1638. For the next 330 years, Mauritius was successively colonised by:

  • The Dutch (1638 – 1658 and 1664 – 1710), who failed to establish a colony;
  • The French (1715 – 1810), who capitulated to the British following a fierce battle in 1810; and
  • The British (1810 – 1968), who finally handed over political power to a full-fledged Mauritian sovereign Government on 12th March 1968.

 A number of stamp issues trace the various periods of our pre-independence history. These are not featured here. My blog called “A Journey to the past through our philatelic heritage” highlight some of them. Another blog series will be dedicated to each of those periods.

 Political independence

 The foundational events that led the country to independence can be traced back to the 19th Century, with the rising of popular movements, leading to the formation of political parties to represent the voice and interests of the workers, in particular. Political independence was finally acted on 12th March 1968.

In 2008 and 2013, the special commemorative covers issued to mark the 40th and 45th anniversary of independence respectively, portrayed two photos, namely the hoisting of the National Flag and the lowering of the Union Jack, as well as a photo of Sir S. Ramgoolam, the first Prime Minister of Mauritius and Sir John Shaw Rennie, the last British Governor of Mauritius, at the Champ de Mars. There are the only covers showing this solemn moment.

 12 March 2008: Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Independence

 2008 12 March - 40th anniversary independence

12 March 2013: Celebrating the 45th Anniversary of Independence

2013 - 45th anniv independence

Despite becoming a sovereign state in 1968, it is important to highlight that Mauritius remained a constitutional monarchy, with the Queen as the Head of State until the country proclaimed the status of Republic. Her constitutional role was delegated to the Governor-General.

That said, to mark the event, an official first day cover was issued on the 12th March 1968.

1968 Independence FDC

 

It featured 3 stamps with the Mauritian flag and three stamps with our Coats of Arms. The flag of Mauritius consists of red, blue, yellow and green bands, where:

  • Red represents the struggle for freedom and independence.
  • Blue represents the Indian Ocean, in the middle of which Mauritius is situated.
  • Yellow represents the new light of independence.
  • Green represents the agriculture of Mauritius and its colour throughout the 12 months of the year.

The Coat of arms of Mauritius consists of a Dodo Bird and Sambur Deer supporting sugar cane and a shield divided into four sections. The arms were designed in 1906.

On the blazon, the ship (called lymphad or galley) in the first quarter refers to the European settlers of the island, the Portuguese, Dutch, French and English respectively. The second quarter shows three palm trees for the tropical vegetation. The key symbolises the strategic importance of the island. The fourth quarter shows a star, symbol that the island is the star of the Indian Ocean.

The supporters are an (extinct) dodo (Raphus cucullatus) and a sambar deer (Rusa unicolor), symbolising the extinct and present wildlife.

The two green sugar canes indicate the importance of sugar for the local economy.

The motto “Stella Clavisque Maris Indici” is displayed on a ribbon, which means “Star and Key of the Indian Ocean” and is based on the lower half of the arms.

 

A set of 3 postage stamps was issued to mark the 5th anniversary of independence on 12 March 1973.

1973 10 April - 5th anniversary of independence

On the three stamps (i) the 15cs features the University of Mauritius; (ii) 60cs represents Tea Board building, one of the main agricultural sectors in the 1970s; and (iii) Re. 1. represents the Bank of Mauritius. Each stamp includes a picture of Sir. S. Ramgoolam on the top right hand side. 

On  12th March 1978, another first day cover was issued to mark the 10th anniversary of independence, with a set of 15 definitive stamp issues. They highlighted various aspects of our history, mostly related to the pre-independence era. The only stamps that related to the post independence era were: Rs. 15 stamp, featuring the raising of the Mauritian Flag on 12th March 1968 and Rs. 25 stamp, showing the first Mauritian Prime Minister, Sir S. Ramgoolam and the then Governor-General, Sir Veerasamy Ringadoo. 

1978 12 March - New definitive issue 31978 12 March - New difinitive issue 4

 1978 12 March - New definitive stamp issue 1

1978 12 March - New definitive issue 2

 

On 12 March 1988, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of independence, a series of 5 postage stamps was issued. It features (i) on the 25 cs, the University of Mauritius; (ii) the 75 cs stamp, which showed callisthenics, performed during major sports events or during national celebrations such as on independence day; (iii) the Rs 2.50 stamp picturing an athletics show at Sir Maurice Rault stadium; (iv) the Rs. 5 stamp, which illustrates the international airport bearing the name of Sir Seewooosagur Ramgoolam, with an Air Mauritius plane at the parking; and (v) the Rs. 10 featuring Sir Veerasamy Ringadoo, the then Governor-General and Sir Aneerood Jugnauth, the then Prime Minister. The FDC cover features the Coats of Arms of Mauritius.

1988 12 March - 30th anniversary independance

 Mauritius attained full political independence on 12th March 1992, when it became a Republic (although it remained in the Commonwealth). The President replaced to Governor-General. Political power remains with the Prime Minister. On that occasion, an official first day cover was released. 

 1992 12 Mrch - Proclamation of Republic

The set of four postage stamps illustrate on (i) the 40cs stamp, Sir Veerasamy Ringadoo, who became the first President of the Republic, with Le Réduit, his residence, as a background; (ii) the Rs. 4 stamp, illustrating the Prime Minister Sir Aneerood Jugnauth, with the Government House in the background; (iii) the Rs. 8 stamp featuring the Mauritian population, a mosaic of multiculturalism, illustrated by a rainbow; and (iv) the Rs 10. stamp, featuring the Coats of Arms of Mauritius, with the initials RM, for Republic of Mauritius. The envelope shows the National flower of Mauritius, the Trochetia. 

 On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of independence and 1st anniversary of the Republic of Mauritius, a set of postage stamps was issued on 12 March 1993.

1993 12 March - 25th anniversary National Day

The set of 5 postage stamps featured the main activities of the Mauritian political and economic life over the past 25 years. (i) The 30cs stamp depicts housing development, in particular the housing estates built in different parts of the country; (ii) the 40cs stamp shows the considerable changes in economic conditions of the country, through GDP increase as a result of fast industrialisation; (iii) the Rs. 3 stamp symbolises the colours of the Mauritian flag. Red represents the flowering flamboyant, blue the sea that surrounds the island; yellow the stretches of sandy beaches and green the luxuriant vegetation and sugar cane fields; (iv) th Rs. 4 stamp depicts democracy with a representation of the ballot box; and (v) the Rs. 15 shows the highest national award in the form of an Order, Medal, Badge or Certificate. The highest order depicted on the stamp is the Grand Commander of the Star and Key of the Indian Ocean and is conferred on the President. The FDC shows the National Assembly, seat of Government, situated at the Government House in Port-Louis.  

Key political figures:

One notable change on postage stamps after independence was the disappearance of the Queen on most stamps (except for the fisheries issue, released in 1969 and the definitive series issued in 1978 on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of independence). After 1992, following the proclamation of the Republic, the first stamps had the explicit mention of the words “Republic of Mauritius” and then, the coats of arms appeared until 2001. But the main change was an increasing number of stamps showing the importance of political leaders: presidents, (former) prime ministers, and leaders of political parties. This is clearly a sign of stronger and bolder political positioning, in particular in the international arena. Those stamps issues are highlighted below:

Sir Seewoorsagur Ramgoolam, who led the independent movement and became the first Premier when Mauritius obtained self-government in 1965 and was the first Prime Minister of Mauritius at Independence on 12 March 1968. He became Governor General in 1983 until his demise in 1985. He is one of the political figures who has been the most celebrated on postal stamps. He is represented on a number of stamps, notably in the context of the celebrations of the national day but also a number of commemorative issues were released to celebrate his birthday.

For instance, on the occasion of his 80th birthday, a Rs. 15 golden stamp was issued. It features a bust of Sir Sewoosagur Ramgoolam, with the Mauritian flag in the background.

1980 8 Sep - 80th birth anniversary SSR

Also, on 18 Sep 2000, to commemorate the Birth Centenary of Sir Sewoosagur Ramgoolam, a set of 4 postage stamps was issued. 2000 18 Sep - 100 of father of nation

The stamps show various aspects of his career. (i) The Re. 1 stamp portrays SSR welcoming Mother Theresa during her visit to Mauritius in 1984; (ii) At the general elections of 1948, SSR was elected for the first time as a member of the Labour Party. The Rs. 2 stamp shows SSR with a red garland thanking the voters for their confidence; (iii) the Rs. 5 stamp depicts SSR as a young student in London; and (iv) the Rs. 15 stamp features SSR when he became Prime Minister in 1968 after independence. His signature is also shown on the stamp.

Further, on 18 Sep 2006, a Special Commemorative Cover, cancelled with a special cachet was issued to commemorate his 106th birth anniversary. The FDC illustrates a portrait of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam and the steps of the Apravasi Ghat, which is now part of the UNESCO world heritage.

2006 19 Sep - 106th birth anniv of SSR 

Finally, on 18 September 2010, a Special Commemorative Cover featuring a Rs. 100 gold postage stamp was issued to mark the 110th birth anniversary of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam. The FDC illustrates the statue of SSR, located at Port-Louis Waterfront.

 2010 18 Sep - SSR Father of Nation

Eminent political personalities

A set of 5 postage stamps was issued on 26 August 1981, illustrating eminent personalities. This was the first issue featuring important figures that marked the social, political and economic landscape of Mauritius. 

1981 27 Aug - past emminent personalities

Of these, 4 postage stamps features leading political figures. (i) The 20cs stamp illustrates Emmanuel Anquetil and Guy Rozemond, the leaders of the Mauritius Labour Party in the early 20th century; (ii) The 25 cs stamp features Remy Ollier, a journalist and teacher, who defended the liberty of the press and founded the newspaper La Sentinelle and Sookdeo Bissoondoyal, an eminent politician and one of the leading figures in the independence movement. Bissoondoyal founded the Independent Forward Bloc, a political party. He also attended the Constitutional Conference in London leading towards the independence of Mauritius in 1968; (iii) the Rs.125 stamp showing Dr. Maurice Curé, one of the founding fathers of the Mauritius Labour Party, the main political party that led the country to independence and Barthelemy Ohsan, another early member of the Labour Party, close collaborator of Dr. Maurice Curé. After the second world war, he left the political scene to continue his career as a magistrate; (iv) The Rs. 1.50 stamp shows two high profile political figures, Sir Guy Forget, a member of the Labour Party, who became the President of the party and also served as minister between 1959 and 1968 (before independence) and Renganaden Seeneevassen, a member of the Labour Party, who became the first Minister of Education in 1953; (iv) Rs. 2 stamp shows Sir Abdul Razak Mohammed, a political figure, leader of the Comité d’Action Musulman (a political party), who fought for independence and held several ministerial positions and Jules Koenig, founder of the Mauritius Social Democratic Party (PMSD), one of the oldest political parties of Mauritius. The party was initially not in favour of independence but instead argued for an association with Britain instead; (v) Rs. 2.50 stamp, features Abdoolatiff Mohamed Osman, a pioneering figure in the agricultural cooperative movement , who later became Minister of Agriculture (in 1957) and Dazzi Rama, also known as Pandit Sahadeo, one of the founding fathers of the Mauritius Labour Party, together with Dr. Maurice Curé.

 On 4 Sep 2007, a set of four postage stamps were issued on the theme “Anniversaries and Events”. 

2007 4 Dec - Anniversaries and events

The Rs. 5 stamp illustrates the 9 personalities who sworn in as Ministers in 1957, following the Agreement reached at the London Conference in February 1957. This system was meant to be a major step towards parliamentary government later. There were several mistakes on that stamp: for example the picture of A.H. Osman appears in place of A.M. Osman, also, the name of Dr. E. Millien was wrongly writted as “Dr. G. Millien and “R. Vaghjee” is written instead of “H.R. Vaghjee”. The stamp was later re-printed, with the correct picture of A. M Osman. However, the other mistakes were not corrected. 

The Postal Services issued a stamp of Rs. 10 on 15 April 2006 to commemorate the birth centenary of Professor Basdeo Bissoondoyal, an eminent personality in the field of education and in particular for the Hindu community in Mauritius. He was a scholar, a leader, a preacher and a reformer of the Hindu society. The FDC shows a pile of books written by Prof. Bissoondoyal.

2006 1 April - Birth centenary of B. BisoondoyalA Special Commemorative Cover was issued on 1 August 2006 to commemorate the birth centenary of Sir Abdul Razak Mohamed. Born in India on 1 Aug. 1906, Sir A. R. Mohamed came to Mauritius at the age of 22 years to settle as a businessman. 

2006 1 Aug - Birth centenary of R. Mohamed

Once settled, R. Mohamed was very much engaged with the business community and in political affairs, especially prior to independence. His activities also extended to social services: generously, he provided financial support to needy students, widows and orphans and contributed to set up a number of charitable institutions. He played a significant role in 1945 and 1947 Consultative Committees, set up to advise on the constitution of Mauritius. His main contributions to the Constitution include a Bill of Rights; political safeguards; a 60-member elected assembly; a quota of seat for each main section of the population; and the setting up of an Ombudsman. During his political career, he served as a Municipal Counsellor, Mayor and Senior Minister. He passed away on 8 May 1978. 

A special commemorative cover was issued on 17 December 2008 to mark the birth centenary of Sookdeo Bissoondoyal, a primary school teacher, journalist, writer, parliamentarian, Minister and leader of the opposition. 

2008 17 Dec - birth centenary of S. Bisoondoyal

His social and political engagements helped shape the modern history of Mauritius. During his long and distinguished career, he struggled for social justice, the right to vote for his fellow citizens, the protection of their civil rights and for poverty alleviation. He founded a political party, the Independence Forward Bloc, which played a key role in the struggle for independence. The FDC shows a portrait in medallion of S. Bissoondoyal with a background picture of the S. Bissoondoyal Memorial Museum at Tyack, the village where he was born.

A Special Commemorative Cover was issued on 11 April 2010 to mark the birth centenary of Renganaden Seeneevassen, born in Mauritian in 1910. 

2010 9 Oct - Birth centenary Seeneevassen

Prompted by the blatant injustices of colonial Mauritius and imbued with a sense of fairness, R. Seeneevassen left Mauritius in 1935 to read law in England. There, he met great leaders of the Indian independence movement such as Pandit J. Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi and the interaction developed his keen interests in politics. Upon his return to Mauritius, he joined the Labour Party and became of its most influential leaders. His powerful negotiations skills and knowledge of law greatly helped to shape the Constitution of Mauritius. He was the first Mauritian Minister of Education and introduced a new Code of Education to ensure a fair and equitable education system. 

On 20 June 2011, a set of 4 postage stamps was issued to mark various anniversaries and events. 

2011 30 June - Anniversaries and events

Among those, the Rs. 21 stamp, marks the 125th birth centenary of Dr. Maurice Curé an eminent figure of Mauritius political scene, who advocated constitutional reforms and denounced exploitation and injustice during the British rule. He is the founding father of the Mauritius Labour Party, the partly that led the country to independence in 1968. He was elected a member of the Legislative Council in 1946 and 1948 and of the Legislative assembly in 1964. 

A Special Commemorative Cover was issued on 3 December 2011 to mark the birth centenary of Seewa Bappoo

2011 3 Dec - Birth Centenary Bappoo

Mr. Bappoo was an influential figure of the socio-cultural landscape of Mauritius. He was also a political figure and participated in the London Constitutional Conference at Lancaster House in 1965, which paved the way for the independence of Mauritius.

The road to economic transformation

Background

When Mauritius acceded to independence in 1968, it was a low-income, monocrop economy: sugar cane production was main economic activity, contributing to almost 90% of export revenues. Current GDP per capita stood at USD 260, unemployment was high (17%) and rising, school enrolment and the average living standard were quite low.

Successive governments laid the foundations for a diversified economy. In the 1970s, Mauritius embarked on an industrialisation journey, leading to the establishment of light manufacturing industries, a vibrant textile industry, and other food processing industries, amongst others. The 1980s were marked by the development of the tourism sector. In the 1990s and 2000s, Mauritius turned to the development of its services sector, with particular focus on financial services and ICT, amongst others. Today, traditional sectors are being transformed into higher value added sector and new sectors, such as real estate development, seafood, knowledge and medical services are being developed. 

Today, Mauritius is an upper middle-income country, which aspires to join the ranks of high-income economies, by 2030. In just over 50 years, the economic landscape was significantly transformed: in 2017, the nominal GDP per capita was estimated at USD 9,630 –   37 times higher than when Mauritius began its journey as an independent country in 1968.

Various economic activities

A number of postage stamps issued in the last 50 years highlight the significant contribution of various economic sectors.  

On 12 September 2001,  a set of 4 postage stamps on the theme “Achievements of the 20th Century” was issued . 

2001 12 Sep - Achievements in the 20th Century

The set comprises stamps of (i) Rs. 2, which portrays students during a training session at the Hotel School of Mauritius, set up in 1971 to provide the tourism industry with highly trained personnel; (ii) Rs. 3, showed a light manufacturing activity, a red hot steel bar coming out of a furnace. The steel bar industry played an important role in the building of infrastructure, following independence; (iii) The Rs. 6 stamp portrays a solar energy plant at North Island in Agalega. It was set up in April 1998 to provide energy to 10 houses; (iv) Rs. 10 stamp portrays the logo of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation. The Association comprises 19 member states, and aims to promote the interests of Indian Ocean states and to cooperate in various fields. The Secretariat is based in Mauritius. The FDC illustration is an interior view of the Port-Louis Theater.

The Postal Services issued a set of four commemorative stamps to mark the 10th Anniversary of the accession of Mauritius to the status of Republic on 12 March 2002. 

2002 12 March - 10th Anniversary of Republic

The commemorative issue portrays 4 stamps (i) a Re. 1 relates to the development of Port-Louis as a regional hub of the Indian Ocean for trade, warehousing and distribution. The stamp shows the three quay cranes installed in Port-Louis; (ii) Rs. 4 is a composition showing the use of informational technology in the stock market; (iii) Rs. 5 stamp features the construction of the Midlands Dam, which is mainly used for the irrigation of the northern planes; (iv) Rs. 9 stamp portrays the roundabout at Réduit, a major point of exchange for traffic from the centre of the island. The FDC illustrates the President’s flag. 

The importance of agriculture

Already in 1969, a series of 5 postage stamps commemorated Telfair’s improvements in the sugar industry (although those relate to the 19th and early 20th century).

1969 Anniv of sugar industry FDC

 

On 10 January 1990, to mark the 350th anniversary of the introduction of sugar cane in Mauritius, a new set of 4 postage stamps was released. 

1990 10 Jan - 350th anniversary of intro of sugar cane

The series of stamps feature various activities, such as cane cutting (30cs stamp); an ancient sugar factory (40cs stamp); the introduction of mechanisation, which improved the productivity of cane cultivation (Re. 1 stamp) and a modern sugar factory, which also improved significantly the productivity of the industry, thanks to technology (Rs 25 stamp).

On 15 Nov 2003, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Mauritius Chamber of Agriculture (MCA), a special commemorative cover was issued to mark the significant role played by the MCA in the agricultural and socio-economic development of the country. 

2003 15 Nov - 150 anniversary MCA

The mission of the MCA is to ensure that Mauritian agriculture adapts to global changes, while maintaining active populations in rural areas and to ensure an adequate level of food security. The Chamber, conscious of its strategic importance in the national economy, has shaped a number of initiatives aimed at providing the agricultural sector with sound and permanent structures. This has enabled it to respond positively to numerous challenges. Globalisation and liberalisation of trade, emergence of new technologies, modern agricultural practices and greater concern for the environment are some of the challenges facing the sector. 

On 19 Dec 2011 four postage stamps and a FDC were issued on the Tea Industry

2011 19 Dec - Tea Industry

Tea is well anchored in the Mauritian culture and the average consumption of tea on the island is one kg. per head annually. Tea was introduced in Mauritius by a French priest, Father Galloys in 1760. However, under the French rule, tea production was not a priority and even the botanist Pierre Poivre kept it as a museum plant. In the early 19th Century, Sir Robert Farquhar, Governor of Mauritius, encouraged tea cultivation on a commercial basis. One of the pioneers was Raoul Corson. In the 1960s, it was decided to further intensive cultivation in the humid zones. However, in the 1990s, it was decided to convert part of the land into sugar production and tea production declined. Today, there are 3 tea factories, namely Bois Cheri, Corson and La Chartreuse. Production is mainly for domestic production and very few, high grade teas, are exported. 

Fisheries resources of Mauritius were featured in a series of 4 postage stamps released on 7 October 1983. 

1983 7 Oct - Fisheries resources

The stamps highlight various activities, namely the 25 cs and Re. 1 stamps, showing a fishermen preparing and using fish traps; the Rs. 5 stamp showing a blue marlin catch, a big game fishing activity and the Rs. 10 showing octopus drying, principally done in Rodrigues. 

Industrial activities

On 30 October 1987, a series of 5 postage stamps was issued on the theme “Industrialisation”. 

1987 30 OCT - Industrialisation

The set of stamps features various economic activities encouraged and developed in Mauritius: (i) the 20cs stamp shows the toy industry; (ii) the 35 cs stamp features a spinning factory, developed to provide local inputs to the textile industry; (iii) the 50cs stamp shows the rattan industry, used to make furniture; (iv) Rs. 2.50 shows the spectacles industry, which even exports to Europe and (v) Rs. 10 stamp, featuring stone carving, a crafting activity that is becoming rarer.

On 10 January 2001,  a set of 4 postage stamps was issued to highlight the contribution of the textile industry and its thousands of workers in the economic development of Mauritius. 

2001 10 Jan - Textile industry

The set comprises stamps of (i) Re. 1, showing a finished pullover, which is machine-knitted and has been designed by local qualified designers and stylists. Mauritius is one of the leading world exporters of pullovers, mainly to Europe and US; (ii) Rs. r shows a computed aided machinery, used to design, cut and produce patters for high value products; (iii) Rs. 6 depicts a t-shirt folding machine, with a capacity of 400 t-shirts per hour; (iv) Rs. 10 shows an embroidery machine, with a capacity of 800 stitches per minute. The number of points required for a t-shirt ranges from 20,000 to 30,000 stitches.

The Mauritius Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) played a significant role in advocating and defending the interest of the business community in Mauritius. On 25th January 2000, s series of 4 postage stamps was issued to mark the 150th anniversary of MCCI.

2000 25 Jan - 150th anniversary MCCI

The first day cover illustrates the facade of the seat of the Mauritius Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), formerly situated on Royal Street, Port-Louis.  The set consists of 4 stamps of the following denominations: (i) Re. 1: The Coats of Arms of the MCCI, granted in 1975 and officially awarded in 1979. The Chamber’s moto, which appears on the Coats of Arms is ‘Non nobis, sed patriae’, which means ‘Not for ourselves, but for our motherland’. The blue and yellow colours symbolise trust, confidence and optimism; (ii) The Rs. 2 stamp represents new technologies and the perception of the Chamber for the future (i.e. vision, service and cohesion);  (iii) The Rs. 7 stamp shows a painting of the first Secretary of the Chamber, Mr. Francis Channell; and (iv) The Rs. 15 stamp features a painting of Mr. Louis Léchelle, first President of the Chamber (and first Mayor of Port-Louis). 

Small crafts and traders

On 1 December 1997, a set of four postage stamps was issued on the theme “petits métiers” to highlight the contribution of local craftsmen to the development of the country. 

1997 1 Dec - Petits metiers

The set comprises of 4 stamps: (i) a 60cs stamp, showing a wheelwright (saron) at work, who contributed a lot to the development of transport, in particular for carts to carry their loads of sugar to the mills; (ii) Rs. 4 stamp represents a washerman (dobi), washing clothes at the river. Stains and other oily patched were removed using maize cobs (koto maille). This craft has almost disappeared with the arrival of technology and washing machines; (iii) Rs. 5 stamp shows a shipwright (charpentier pirogue), giving a finishing touch to a small fishing boat. The scene was typical of fishing villages, where boat construction was done under banyan trees on the beach; (iv) Rs. 15 stamp shows quarrymen (coupeur corail), woking on blocks of corals to make bricks for the construction of houses and walls. The scene is typical in Rodrigues. The FDC pictures a composite design of the stamps.

On 30 June 2004, the Postal Services issued another set of stamps on the theme ‘petits métiers’, carried out by generations of Mauritians. 

2004 30 June - Petits Metiers

(i) Rs. 2 stamp depicts a “ferblantier” (tinsmith), a craft that has evolved to adapt to changing times. Its continuity was guaranteed for its large clientele by craftsmen coming from the same families. They produced a wide range of metal utensils such as watering cans, braziers, buckets, paraffin boxes and letterboxes; (ii) Rs. 7 depicts a ‘cordonnier’ (a cobbler), who repairs and replaces worn soles and heels, very rapidly and at low cost; (iii) Rs. 9 shows a ‘forgeron’ (a blacksmith), now a slowly disappearing craft. They produced a range of rough, robust and cheap tools such as hoes, axe-heads, chisels, spikes etc; (iv) Rs. 15 depicts a ‘vannier’ (a basket maker), where baskets, table mats, straw hats, bags or cases were weaved from sun-dried leaves and fibres from local plants such as coconut, aloe or vacoas.

Tourism 

On 12th April 1971, a set of 4 postage stamps was issued on the theme ‘tourist’. It features 4 postage stamps which display various assets of Mauritius as a tourism destination. 

1971 12 April - Tourist

(i) The 10cs stamp shows a landscape scenery, with a waterfall with a rainbow; (ii) The 15 cs stamp features another inland scenery of ordinary lifestyle at the time, showing women carrying wood on their heads, crossing a bridge surrounded by sugar cane fields, with montagne Trois Mamelles in the background; (iii) the 60 cs stamp shows a beach scene, with tourists on the beach, ready to go for a boat trip in the lagoon; and (iv) the Rs. 2.50 stamp shows marine life under water, with small coloured fish and corals. 

On 25 September 1985, on the occasion of the 10th Anniversary of the World Tourism Organisation, a set of 4 postage stamps was released. 

1985 27 Sep - 10th anniversary World Tourism Organisation

They feature essentially some of the tourism attractions in Mauritius and Rodrigues. (i) The 25cs stamp shows Caverne Patate in Rodrigues, an impressive cave system, of 600 metres, with a few stalagmite and stalactite formations; (ii) The 35 cs stamp shows the seven coloured earth, a geological formation, which is a prominent tourist attraction, situated in Chamarel in Mauritius. The main feature is the different coloured sands, formed by the decomposition of volcanic rocks, that are settled in different layers and small dunes, of about seven different colours (red, brown, violet, green, blue, purple and yellow); (iii) the Rs. 5 stamp shows Serpant island, with a view on Round islands. Those two small islands are nature reserves and are situation in the North of Mauritius; and (iv) The Rs. 10 stamps, which features another small island off the Northern coast of Mauritius, Coin de Mire. 

Closely linked to the development of the tourism industry, the national airline company, Air Mauritius, was inaugurated in 1977. 

1977 31 oct - Air Mauritius inaugural flight

miniature sheet Air Mauritius

On 14 June 1993, a set of 4 postage stamps was issued to mark the 25th anniversary of Air Mauritius.

1993 14 June - Silver jubilee Air MauritiusSilver jubilee Air Mauritius

(i) The 40cs represents a Bell 206B Jet Ranger helicopter, put in operations by Air Mauritius in 1985; (ii) Rs. 3, showing the taking off of a Boeing 747 SP, in operation since 1984. The aircraft was used for the first non-stop flights between Mauritius, Paris, Rome and Zurich; (iii) Rs. 4, showing an ATR 42, used for inter-island services, linking Mauritius to Reunion Isl. and Rodrigues. The plane was put in service in 1986; (iv) Rs. 10, showing a Boeing 767-200 ER, baptised the City of Port-Louis. This aircraft held the world record in 1988 for the longest non-stop distant. The FDC shows Air Mauritius route map.

In 2017, Air Mauritius celebrated in 50th anniversary and released a special commemorative cover to mark the event. Today, Air Mauritius is one of the largest Mauritian companies, with over 3,000 employees. It covers 25 direct destinations and serve more than 100 others, through various hubs, on 4 continents. 

2017 ir Mauritius

Financial services

On 1 September 1988, a set of 4 postage stamps was released to mark the 150 anniversary of the Mauritius Commercial Bank, the oldest and largest financial institution in Mauritius.  

1988 1 Sep - 150th Anniversary MCB

The MCB is also the oldest banking institution south of the Sahara and one of the oldest banks of the Commonwealth to have preserved its original name. The bank was an initiative by a group of traders of the capital, headed by Mr. James Blyth and Mr. William Hollier Griffiths, who wanted to establish an alternative to the Bank of Mauritius, which they felt favoured the planters on the island. The bank started business with an authorised capital of 100,000 pounds sterling, around 500,000 piastres, in premises situated at rue de Paris, subsequently rue Desforges, now Sir Seewoosagur Street. The set of postage stamps feature the following: (i) the 25 cs shows the MCB building in Port-Louis as from 1981; the Re. 1 stamp show of old premises of the bank as they were in 1897; (iii) the Rs. 1.25 stamp shows the Coats of Arms of the Bank; and (iv) the Rs. 25 features a bank note issued by the MCB in 1838.

On 29 October 1992, a set of 4 postage stamps was issued on the occasion of the silver jubilee of the Bank of Mauritius. The BoM Ordinance 1966 provided for the establishment of the Bank of Mauritius as the country’s central bank. 

1992 29 Oct - Bank of Mauritius Silver Jubilee

The Bank started operations in 1967 at a time when Mauritius was still a British colony. (i) 40cs shows the BoM building, located at the corner of Sir William Newton Street and Royal Street. The building was inaugurated on 31 March 1972; (ii) Rs 4 shows the Dodo Gold Bullion Coin, issued on 12 November 1988, a landmark in the history of coinage in Mauritius. The Dodo Gold coins are available in separate units containing respectively one ounce, a quarter once, and one-tenth ounce of pure gold. They reflect the country’s drive at entering a market which has been the exclusive preserve of a few countries; (iii) Rs 8 shows Mauritian bank notes. Once of the principal function of the Central Bank is to ensure the adequate supply of notes and coins. In 1934, a Board of Commissioners of Currency was set up to issue for the first time, the Mauritian Rupee currency notes, under a fixed Sterling-Rupee standard. On 4th Sep. 1967, the Bank of Mauritius issued a first set of 4 banknotes in denominations of Rs. 50, Rs 25, Rs 10 and Rs 5 respectively. As from 18 Sep 1985, taking cognisance of the changing needs of the business community, new bank notes with a new series comprising of 8 denominations, namely Rs 1000, Rs 500, Rs 200, Rs 100, Rs 50, Rs 20, Rs 10, Rs 5. (iv) Rs. 15 stamp shows the foreign exchange reserves between 1967 and 1992. These reserves are generated from exports of goods and services. The BoM manages those reserves. 

On 6 September 2017, Mauritius Post issued an Official First Day Cover to mark the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Bank of Mauritius. 

BOM

A unique Rs. 27 stamp, featuring the first Governor of the Bank of Mauritius , Mr Aunauth Beejadhur, was issued. The cover shows also the BoM building, situated in Sir William Newton Street, Port-Louis. Prior to the creation of the BoM, the Board of the Commissioners of Currency was responsible for the issue of currency in Mauritius. It was established in 1849 and put an end to the practice of ‘free banking’ that had prevailed all throughout the 18th Century. An Order of the Council prescribed the Mauritian Rupee as legal tender as from 1876. The Bank of Mauritius replaced the Board, and was officially inaugurated by the then Governor of Mauritius, Sir John Shaw Rennie, on 1 September 1967. The primary objective of the BoM is to maintain price stability and to promote orderly and balanced economic development. It also regulated credit and currency to ensure the stability of the financial system. 

Telecommunications

Telecommunications played a major role in the development of Mauritius.  In 1983, a set of 4 postage stamps was issued in the context of the World Communications Year. 

1983 24 June - World Telecoms year

It featured various aspects of communications (telephone, telegraph, satellite and air ballon), which all contributed to connect Mauritius to disenclave a small island like Mauritius and connect it to the world.

On 25 November 1993, a set of 4 commemorative postage stamps was issued on Telecommunications to mark the celebration of the 100 years of  external telecommunications by Mauritius Telecoms. 

1993 25 Nov - Telecommunications

The stamps depicts the evolution of telecoms in Mauritius: (i) 40cs stamp depicts the laying submarine cables between Mauritius and Seychelles by S.S Scotia, marking the first external communications with the rest of the world in 1893. The submarine cable can still be seen at Cassis Station; (ii) Rs. 3 shows the morse key and code, invented by Samuel Morse in 1844. The first message from Mauritius was keyed on the Mauritius submarine telegraph to the Majesty Queen Victoria on 25 November 1893 at 14.45 hours and a reply was received at 17.15 hours; (iii) Rs. 4, shows Signal Mountain station, which serves as a relay station for microwave links between Mauritius and Seychelles; (iv) Rs. 8, showing a communication satellite, in operation in Mauritius since 1975. The FDC depicts Cassis Station.

A Special Commemorative Cover was issued on 29 May 2014 to mark the 25th anniversary of mobile telephony in Mauritius. 

2014 - 25 ans EMTEL

With the advent of first mobile telephony operation in Mauritius and the Southern Hemisphere on 29 May 1989, Emtel Ltd has transformed positively the way of life of the people. Over the past 25 years, the company has made a significant contribution to social and economic development by connecting even the remotest corners of Mauritius, including Rodrigues and Agalega, while enhancing communication to reach out to the world. With customers needs always at the fore of its priorities, the pioneering spirit of Emtel Ltd has successfully delivered a number of milestones in the history of telecommunications. 

 

African Postal Heritage Papers: Mauritius

I am pleased to announce that the publication of three African Postal Heritage Papers about Mauritius by the African Studies Centre, Leiden (The Netherlands). We are happy that we managed to release them in time for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the independence of Mauritius on the 12th March 2018. 

Due to the massive amount of information, the papers are published in 3 volumes as follows:
The first paper (referenced APH 27) covers the period starting from the beginning of postal history in Mauritius until independence. It is available on: https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/handle/1887/58684
The second paper (referenced APH 28) covers the period after independence to date. It is available onhttps://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/handle/1887/58685
The third paper (referenced APH 29) is a listing of Mauritius postmarks (opened and closed) as well as an iconographic analysis of Mauritian stamps. This paper is available on: https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/handle/1887/58686
This is part of a scientific project to prepare and encourage in-depth studies about on the one hand the history of postal services, and what they say about the political geography and geopolitics of what for a long time used to be a state service, and on the other hand the iconography of stamps as ‘messengers’. 
 
The link to all other APH papers so far isAfrican Postal Heritage (APH) papers
These papers are working documents, so any comments/ views/ suggestions are more than welcomed. 

The Philatelist’s Pick: Flora & Fauna of Mauritius – Part II: Plants introduced in Mauritius

In this second blog, I will talk about other plants that were introduced during colonial times. Some of those plants were introduced for economic reasons, and continue today, to contribute to our national income. Others, like spices and fruits, were brought by eminent botanists, for the greatest benefit of our culinary traditions.

 Sugar cane

 Sugar can was introduced from Java in 1639 during the Dutch settlement period by Governor Adriaan Van der Stel. It was first grown in the region of Ferney. Two sugar processing plants were established by 1641 but sugar production was abandoned by 1652.

The cultivation of sugar cane however continued for the production of arrak, an alcoholic beverage similar to rum. By then end of the 17th century Jan Bockelberg, a junior surgeon of the colony, produced both white and black sugar.

 During the French settlement period, sugar cane production was re-instated under Governor Mahé de Labourdonnais and was successfully cultivated. Slaves were brought from various parts of Africa and from Madagascar to work in the fields.

 In 1810, when the British conquered Mauritius, 10% of the island was under sugarcane cultivation. Sir Robert Farqhuar, the first British Governor felt sugar was an important asset for Mauritius and the area under cane production was further increased. The expansion of sugar cane slowed down in 1835 due to shortage of labour, following the abolition of slavery but the arrival of Indian immigrants relaunched production. New varieties were introduced, roads and railways were constructed to facilitate transport.

 At the turn of the 20th century the sugar industry suffered from the fall in world prices. Reforms were undertaken and production was centralised and mechanised and the number of factories were reduced. Once the backbone of the economy, today the Mauritian economy is very diversified. Although sugar remains an important contributor to the economy, its share has largely declined. Producers have diversified into rum and energy production.

Two sets of postage stamps were issued on the theme sugar cane. The first was issued on 22 December 1969, to mark the improvements and innovations introduced by Charles Telfair, a British planter, for the sugar cane industry. In 1819, Telfair introduced the first horizontal roller mill capable of extracting more juice from sugar cane than before canes. Telfair is pictured on the Rs. 2.50 stamp. The 15 cents stamp shows a vertical cane crusher, used in the early 19th century, before technological improvements introduced by Charles Telfair. The 60 cents stamp shows the Beau Rivage sugar mill, as it was in 1867. The Re. 1 stamp shows Mon Desert Alma Factory in the background of its sugar cane fields in 1969.

 

1969 Annivero f sugar industry special cover
1969: Sesqui Centenary (150th anniversary) commemorative issue of Telfair’s improvement, special cover

On 10 January 1990 a set of 4 postage stamps was issued to mark the 350th anniversary of the introduction of sugar cane in Mauritius.

1990 10 Jan - 350th anniversary of intro of sugar cane

The set of stamps show different aspects of the production process, as follows:

(i) The 30cents stamp, shows manual cane cutting;

(ii) The 40 cents featues Beau Rivage Sugar factory in 1867 (this is a reprint from the 1969 stamp);

(iii) The Re 1 shows the mechanical loading of sugar cane; and

(iv) The Rs 2e features a modern sugar factory.

 The sugarcane plant also featured on the Mauritius Coats of Arms, and was represented on various postage stamps until it was replaced by the palm tree in in 1906. Indeed, the Coats of Arms design was first issued in 1895, representing a 3-mast ship, three sugarcane plants, a key and wedge and a star, called in heraldry, the pile and the mullet.  In 1906, under the administration of Sir Cavendish Boyle, the Arms were corrected because some elements of the designed appeared to be against the rules of the heraldry. A re-designed version was issued in 1910: the galleon was replaced by a lymphad (a galley – the caravelle), palm trees replaced the sugar cane; the key was flipped and the star became five pointed. The overall designed remained however the same.

Coats of Arms1Coats of Arms 2

Tea plantation

 Tea was introduced in Mauritius by a French priest, Father Galloys in 1760. However, under the French rule, tea production was not a priority and even the botanist Pierre Poivre kept it as a museum plant.

 In the early 19th Century, Sir Robert Farquhar, British Governor of Mauritius, encouraged tea cultivation on a commercial basis but again, cultivation was abandoned when he left the island. The industry really developed under the leadership of British Governor Sir Pope Hennessy, 70 years after Farquhar. Plantations began at Nouvelle France and Chamarel. One of the pioneers was Raoul Corson. In the 1960s, it was decided to further intensify cultivation in the humid zones.

 However, in the 1990s, due to competition from major producers in Sri Lanka, India and Kenya, production declined significantly. A number of plantations were converted into sugar production. Today, there are 3 tea factories, namely Bois Cheri, Corson and La Chartreuse. Production is mainly for domestic production and very few, high grade teas, are produced for exports. Producers have also diversified in ‘creative blending’ and herbal teas. Today, Mauritius produces about 20 varieties of tea and assorted products.

2011 19 Dec - Tea Industry

 Tea is well anchored in the Mauritian culture and the average consumption of tea on the island is one kg. per head annually. Four postage stamps and a FDC were issued on the Tea Industry on 19th December 2011. The Rs. 7 stamp show a tea plant (leaves and bud); the Rs. 8 stamp illustrates the process of tea plucking, an activity still conducted manually; the Rs. 15 stamp shows tea as a product ready for consumption, once processing is done; and the Rs. 25 stamp illustrates tea beverage, once prepared and ready to drink. 

 Anthuriums

On 1 December 2004, a set of 4 stamps was issued on the theme “Anthuriums”, a perennial herbaceous plant, originating from South America. The plants were introduced in Mauritius in the 19th Century from Europe. 

The colours of anthuriums vary from satin white to morning-dew pink to frosted pink, and from bright orange to crimson-red. The leaves of the anthuriums are also heart-shaped, though wider in size. They are cultivated for their lasting flowers, which are produced throughout the year.

The four varieties pictured on the cover are of Dutch origin, mainly cultivated for the export market. They are:

  1. On the Rs. 2 stamp, Anthurium andreanum, variety acropolis;
  2. On the Rs. 8 stamp (and on the cover envelope), Anthurium andreanum, variety tropical;
  3. On the Rs. 10 stam, Anthurium andreanum, variety paradisio; and
  4. On the Rs. 25 stamp, Anthurium andreanum, variety fantasia.

2004 1 Dec - Anthuriums

 Spices 

To some extent, Mauritius was discovered thanks to spices. In fact, Mauritius was an important port along the “Spice Route”, that is, the trade route between Europe and India along which lucrative spices were traded from the 16th century onward. Arabs, Portuguese, Dutch, British and French all crossed the Indian Ocean in their quest for those precious spices.

Pierre Poivre was the first to introduce spice culture in Isle de France, under French Rule to break the Dutch monopoly, notably following his visits to Indonesia, China, the Philippines, the Moluccas and Madagascar in the mid-1750’s.

He introduced spices such as pepper, clove, cinnamon and nutmeg. Poivre proceeded to cultivate these plants during a three-year stay on the island, transforming an old French East India Company nursery at Pamplemousses in north-eastern Mauritius into a formal botanical garden (now called the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden). It is said that Poivre introduced more than 600 rare plants into Mauritius and the Pamplemousses Gardens from around the world, like mango and breadfruit trees, cocoa, lychees, coconut palms, ebony and mahogany trees, laurel and camphor trees.

After the abolition of slavery during the English era, Mauritius saw the arrival of indentured labourers. Coming from India, these migrants brought with them other spices, such as saffron, star anise, turmeric and chili. Today, the country has a wide variety of spices, all used to flavour culinary preparations.

1995 10 march - Spices

On 10 March 1995, a set of four postage stamps on spices forms part of the Nature series of Mauritius.  Though none of the spices portrayed in this set is endemic, they have been adopted and adapted by all. The four denominations are:

  • 40 cs, representing the nutmeg, a spice widely used in the Mauritian cuisine. The brown seed (the part used as a spice) is covered by a crimson aril, called mace;
  • 4 stamp shows the coriander plant and seed – commonly known as cotomili in Mauritius. Both leaves and fruits are used in culinary preparations;
  • 5 stamp shows cloves, a spice indigenous to the Moluccas, where the Dutch has a monopoly over spice trade. Introduced in the 18th century by Pierre Poivre, the spice is widely used in sweet and savoury preparations;
  • 10 shows the cardamom, a plant used in antique times by the Greek as an antidote for poisoning. The seed presents a pleasant aroma and is used both in culinary preparation and in medicine.

The FDC illustrates local chillies.

 Rare Fruits

Mauritius has a wide variety of exotic fruits, most were imported from various botanists that visited Mauritius over the years. A set of postal stamps features four different types of edible fruits was issued in 1997:

  • The 60 cents stamp shows both a ripe and a green vavang (vangueria madagascariensis), which comes from a plant originating in Madagascar. The fruit gradually turns brown when ripening;
  • The Rs. 4 stamp features a green and ripe Pom Zako (mimusops coriacea), from a tree that was introduced in the early years of colonisation from Madagascar. It has a sweetish flesh and a pleasant smell;
  • The Rs. 5 stamp shows a zambos (syzygium jambos), from a plant originating from the Indo-Malaysian region, introduced in the late 17th century;
  • The Rs. 10 represents some unripe sapot negro, from a plant originating in the West Indies and Central America, brought to Mauritius in 1772.

 The FDC illustrates the rusay fruit (eugenia uniflora).

1997 10 March - Rare fruits 

Freshwater flora 

2016 18 Oct - Freshwater Flora

A set of 4 postage stamps was issued on 18 October 2016 on the theme “Freshwater Flora”:

  • The Rs. 11 stamp is water hyssop (Bacopa monniera). This small perennial herb is a native species to the Mascarenes and is widely distributed on the tropic and sub-tropics. It is usually found on marshes of brackish water around the coastal area. It is quite ramified, with roots appearing on the nodes of the branches, the leaves are relatively fleshy. The solitary flowers are white, but sometimes it can have a tinge of purple. This species is used in the Aryurvedic medicine;
  • The Rs. 13 stamp is a Mexican primerose-willow, commonly known ad “Herbes les Mares”, “Herbe Gandia” or “Herbe Josephine” in Mauritius. This species is probably native to all three islands of the Mascarenes and plants can be found on wet, marshes and along rivers or paths. Usually it is a small plant, but some old plants can exceptionally reach up to 4 m high. Its leaves are covered with small hairs. It is also considered as a medicinal plant in Mauritius;
  • The Rs. 16 and Rs. 31 stamps represent sacred lotus or Indian lotus. Originating from India, this plant is an aquatic perennial with large showy flowers. It is often considered to be water lilies. This lotus is considered to be a sacred plant by Hindus and Buddhists and associated with many divinities. It is edible and its stems, leaves and seeds can be eaten raw, cooked or as flour. Cultivars of different colours were introduced in Mauritius in the 18th Century. They can easily be seen at the SSR Botanical Garden, Pamplemousses.

 

The Philatelist’s Pick: Flora & Fauna of Mauritius – Part I: Endemic & indigenous plants

This next blog series will talk about the flora and fauna of Mauritius. Some of them are endemic, i.e. they are native to Mauritius and are exclusively found on the island, and nowhere else. Others are indigenous i.e. are native to Mauritius, but can also be found elsewhere in the Indian Ocean. Others have been introduced throughout the various colonial periods and by the botanists that lived or visited Mauritius. Parts I and II will relate to flowers and plants, while Parts III and IV will talk about birds and animals.

 This first blog is about endemic and indigenous flowers and plants. Currently, it is estimated that there are about 691 species of plants in Mauritius, of which about half of them (about 273) are endemic, which means they are unique to the island. About 150 other species are indigenous, that is, we shared them with other islands of the Mascarene Archipelago, namely Reunion and Rodrigues.

 Some historical facts…

 When Mauritius was discovered in the 17th century, it was covered by primitive forest, which was progressively destroyed for agricultural purposes (mainly to cultivate sugar cane, imported from Java by the Dutch) and to make place for human settlement.

 Today, native forests occupy less than 2 per cent of our total land area. These forests are found on mountain ridges, on the Offshore Islets and in Black River Gorges and Bras D’Eau National Parks. This is where the last habitats of our endemic flora and fauna are found. Despite being preserved by national parks, their ecosystem are still extremely fragile and are constantly under threat, notably by invasive species, such as Chinese guava (Psidium cattleianum) and the ravenale imported from Madagascar ((Ravenala madagascariensis).

Endemic and indigenous flowers of Mauritius

On 22 September 1977, the General Post Office released the first endemic flowers set, comprising of 4 postage stamps, namely:

  • A 20cs stamp, showing the “laine à crochet” or Hugonia Tomentaso, a woody endemic climber with beautiful hairy leaves. Its golden flowers appear usually in September/ October;
  • A Re. 1 stamp, illustrating the Bois Jasmin or Ochnacea, an endemic deciduous shrub which flowers copiously in December/ January. The white flowers, which usually appears before the leaves give a very attractive blossom to the forest of the plateau;
  • A Rs. 1.50 stamp, picturing the Dombeya (Dombeya Acutangula Sterculianceae), a very rare indigenous rather spreading shrub which gives a nice round shape. It has pink flowers in bifid cymes, which covers the plant completely, giving it a splendid colourful appearance;
  • A Rs. 5, showing the Boucle d’oreille (Trochetia Blackbumiana Sterulianceae), a low level endemic shrub, which grows on the plateau. It flowers rather profusely and in some varieties they may be straitions on the pink petals. The rather large pendulous flowers are bell shaped and look similar to earings, hence the common name “boucle d’oreille”. It is referred as the national flower of Mauritius

 1977 22 Sep - Flowers issue

The Trochetia, our national flower

 The Trochetia Boutoniana, also known as Boucle d’Oreille, was declared the national flower on the 12th March 1992, when Mauritius achieved the status of Republic. Named after the famous French botanist, Louis Bouton, this endemic plant is found in only one locality in the wild. On 18 June 2003, a set of 4 postage stamps was issued featuring the Trochetia, an endemic plant to the Mascarene consisting of 6 species, out of which 5 are found in Mauritius and 1 in Reunion. All species bear a single hermaphrodite white, pink or reddish flowers, which are either single or clustered bunch of three flowers. The four stamps feature each a variety of the Trochetia found on the island.

  • The Re. 1 depicts the Trochetia Boutoniana, a magnificent shrub with reddish orange flowers, found in the region of Brabant Mountain, and considered as critically endangered;
  • The Rs 4 stamp shows a Trochetia Uniflora, a well-branched shrub, which bears multiple dark pink, bell shape flowers. They can be found around Trois Mamelles mountain, Le Pouce and Letard mountain and is an endangered specie;
  • The Rs. 7 stamp features a Trochetia Triflora, grouped as white bell shaped flowers, in clusters of three; and
  • The Rs. 9 features a Trochetia Parviflora an endangered endemic shrub, bearing a pale pink bell shaped flower facing upward. It is now confined exclusively to Corps de Garde Mountain Nature reserve.

 2003 18 June - Trochetia FDC

A set of 4 postcards was also released. 

On 15 January 1981, another First Day Cover was issued, showing other endemic and indigenous species. It consists of a set of 4 postage stamps, namely:

  • A 25cs picturing a hibiscus (hibiscus liliflorus malvacea), a heterophyllous plant, which grows up in a bushy shrub of three to four metres tall with dark green shiny leaves. This plant was described by Cavanilles in 1789, who might have used the notes of Commerson from a specimen found in Réunion island. The colour of the flower is variable with a number of sub-species;
  • A Rs. 2 depicts the Bois Manioc (Erythrospermum monticolum flacourtiacea), one of the 4 varieties found in the Mascarene Islands. It is a small tree of our native forest, with a conspicuous flaky bark, which is reddish underneath. The tree may reach up to 30 centimetres in diameter and of four to five metres in height. The white flowers appear after the summer rains and produce smooth globose fruits;
  • A Rs. 2.50 representing Bois Corail (chasalia boryana rubiaceae), an endemic shrub of the widespread family rubiaceae. It is one of the most attractive of the half or so endemic species of Chasalia found on the plateau. The inflorescence is fairly conspicuous, looking like a coral growth. The fruits are of a beautiful mauve when ripe;
  • A Rs. 5 represents a hibiscus (hibiscus columnans malvaceae), a rare forest tree, which is now confined to the dry slope of the Western mountains. It is a very distinct species, which does not show much compatibility of hybridisation with other hibiscus species. 1981 15 Jan - Flowers' stamps OFC

Palm trees

 In 1984, a set of 5 postage stamps was released to illustrate Mauritius palm trees. There are about 2700 species worldwide, and Mascarene islands have a few endemic species. Mauritius counts 9 indigenous palm trees, of which 7 are endemic and 2 can also be found in Reunion Island. The set comprises the following 5 species:

  • A 25 cents stamp, showing the Blue Latan (Latania Loddigesii), or latanier de l’île ronde’, an endemic tree which grows to fifteen meters and has glaucous leaves, with a base covered with thick white wool.
  • A 50 cents stamp, showing a Hyophorbe Vaughanii, also native to Mauritius. It is almost extinct in the wild but grown for ornamental purposes as it displays orange flowering and red fruits on a trunk up to ten meters high;
  • A Rs. 2.50 stamp shows the Palmiste Bouclé (Tectiphiala Ferox), is a rarity. It grows only on Mauritius, at altitudes between 500 and 650 m, in humid and acid areas. It has such specific growing requirements that it probably is not found much outside of Mauritius. It grows to some two to nine meters (depending the source) and has long black spines that can be curled (hence the name, ‘frisé’ means curled).
  • A Rs. 5 stamp, picturing the Round Island Bottle Palm (Hyophorbe Langeliscaulis). This palm tress is better known because it is grown as ornamental in many countries worldwide. This ‘palmiste bouteille, palmiste gargoulette or bottle palm’ indeed develops a funny shaped trunk up to five meters which looks like a bottle, more or less round depending on the age of the plant. It also has intriguing twisted fronds (leaves). It comes from Round Island, which is off the shores of Mauritius and has been prized since a long time
  • A Rs 10 stamp, featuring a Hyophorbe Amariculis, an extremely rare palm tree, whose only remaining specimen can be found in the Curepipe Botanical garden.

 1984 23 July - Palms

The envelope cover shows a Palmiste Marron (Hyophorbe Verschaffeltii), which comes from Rodrigues Island where it grows at low elevations on calcareous soils. It also grows on Reunion, Mauritius and other places as ornamental. It has a grey trunk up to five or six meters with a strange shape as it gets thinner in the upper part just like if is was upside down.

In 2005, the Mauritius Post issued a set of four postage stamps in the “Nature” series o depict endemic fauna and flora of Round Island, a volcanic cone, and the second largest offshore islet of Mauritius. Round Island was classified as a nature reserve in 1957 and is administered by the National Parks and Conservation Services. 

Rs. 8 shows a hurricane Palm, a critically endangered plant, with only one surviving individual on the island. The island has 10 endemic palm species.

2005 18 MArch - Round Island

 

The hurricane palm is also featured on the Rs. 3 stamp issued in the “Fauna and Flora series of 30 August 2013.  It was first collected by Philibert Commerson around 1770. It is today the rarest palm in the world, which is difficult to reproduce in laboratories.

2013 30 Aug - Fauna and Flora

A wide variety of palm trees can be seen at the Pamplemousses Botanical garden, the oldest botanical garden in the Southern Hemisphere. Famous for its long pond of giant water lilies (Victoria amazonica) shown on the Rs. 2 stamp, the garden was first constructed by Pierre Poivre (1719 – 1786) in 1770, and it covers an area of around 37 hectares. It has an amazing collection of 85 types of palm trees. Some of them form a long alley as can be seen on the 25 cents stamps. A FDC was released on 24 January 1980 with 5 postage stamps, illustrating various features of the Botanical Garden.

 1980 Pamplemousses FDC

Coconut trees, Agalega

It is believed that the coconut trees found on Agalega (an island situated 1000 km to the north of Mauritius) are native to the island. A set of 4 postafe stamps was issued on 5 December 2001, showing the different stages of production of coconut oil in Agalega. The set comprises of :

(i) Re. 1 stamp picturing the dehusking of coconuts by a worker, which consists of removing the nut from the fibrous enveloppe. This is done by means of a special heavy spear;

(ii) Rs. 5 shows the process of deshelling of coconuts;

(iii) Rs. 6 stamp showing employees looking after the drying of copra in the kiln. The coconut flesh is brought for dying. The latter contains 30 – 40% oil, while the dried one contains 60 – 70% oil;

(iv) Rs. 10 stamps, showing the machine used for oil extraction. The copra is crushed in a bronze pestle and the oil is pressed out through a filtering sieve. The solid residue (pounac) is used as livestock feeds.

The FDC illustrates the picking of coconuts.

Orchids

 A set of 4 postage stamps was issued on 3 October 1986 on the theme Mauritius Orchids. Orchids are fascinating flowers with often curious shapes. This set comprises of:

  • A 25 cs stamps, showing the Cryptopus Elatus, an endemic plant to the Mascarene islands. In Mauritius it is found growing in full light on the plateau. It is one of the most beautiful orchid of the island and is the emblem of the Mauritius Orchid Society. The flower spice of about 20 – 25 cms carries up to 30 white flowers of about 4 – 5 cms long. It blooms between November and January;
  • A Rs. 2 stamp, which shows the Genus Jumellea, of which the greatest number of species is found in Madagascar. About 3 or 4 species are indigenous to Mauritius and they are found growing high up on trees in big clumps, in wet regions of the island. This orchid has strap-shaped dark green leaves of 12 cm long and 1 cm wide. The nice pure white fragrant flowers of about 3 cm across are of a very distinctive shape. The petals are more or less reflexed, the lateral sepals spreading and curved.
  • A Rs 2.50, showing the Angraecum Mauritianum. There are many species in Africa and in neighbouring islands, the most famous being the “comète de Madagascar”. Mauritius has a dozen of species. This pure white flower is star-shaped with 5 to 7 cm long spur. The flower turns to a creamy colour after a few days;
  • A Rs. 10 stamp, featuring the Bulbophyllum Longiflorum, an indigenous orchid, widely distributed in East Africa, Reunion, Madagascar, Tahiti and Papua New Guinea but very rare in Mauritius. The tawny flowers spotted with red are arranged in an umbrella-like inflorescence at the end of a fairly long stalk. The dorsal sepals of about 3cm long and petals of about 5 cm long end in a filament of about 2 – 3 cm. The plant blooms in January and February. 

 1986 Oct - Orchids 

In 2013, a set of 3 postage stamps on Fauna and Flora included a Rs. 10 stamp, showing a native orchid (oeniella polystachys), endemic to the Western Indian Ocean Islands. This bears white flowers of about 2 – 3 cm across, blooming for 1 month. The best population is found on Ile aux Aigrettes and Bras d’Eau. The special commemorative cover below was issued on 2015 for the 35th Anniversary of the Orchid Society of Mauritius. 

2015 25 Sep - 35th anniv Orchid Society

The Mauritius Post Ltd. issued a set of 12 Definitive Stamps on 9th April 2009 depicting beautiful indigenous flowers of Mauritius. They were issued in a set of three FDCs, each with 4 stamps.

The first FDC cover includes:

  • A Rs. 3 stamp featuring the Myonima Obovata, a small indigenous shrub of mid altitude dry forests, which bears nice clusters of small pinkish flowers. The beauty of this plant lies in its juvenile leaves, where a mosaic of red, purple, green venation under a thin waxy layer catches one’s attention;
  • A Rs. 6 stamp is an Elaeocarpus Bojeri, a small endemic tree now confined to only three individuals at Grand Bassin Peak, which bears long drooping inflorescence will bell-shaped whitish flowers.
  • A Rs. 7 stamp shows the Bremeria Landia, a small indigenous tree of upland humid forest bearing bright white flowers at its branch tips. This plant is used by local people for medicinal purposes against fever and as a tonic drink;
  • A Rs. 50, showing a Hibiscus Fragilis, a rare endemic shrub with rambling branches striving only on 2 mountains – Corps de Garde and Le Morne Brabant. It bears deep carmine striking flowers.

 2009 9 April - Indigenous flowers_3

The second FDC shows the four following indigenous flowers:

  • The Rs. 5 stamp shows a Crinum Mauritanium, an endemic lily plant discovered in the 1970s in the region of Midlands, and is now extremely rate. It bears beautiful while flowers all year round;
  • The Rs. 9 stamp pictures the Gaertnera Longifolia, an endemic short tree thriving in upland humid forests. It can easily be recognised by its long leaves and its terminal white inflorescence. It remains one of the rarest Gaertnera species on the island;
  • The Rs. 10 stamp features the Dombeya Acutangula, a rare indigenous flower plant found in the wild on a few mountain flanks. It is also one of the native flowering plants commonly planted in gardens and used in landscaping projects. It bears pink inflorescence;
  • The Rs. 25 stamp shows a Roussea Simplex, a rare endemic shrub now found in few places like Le Pouce, Grand Bassin, Bassin Blanc, Trou aux Cerf and Combo. Its orange yellow bell-shaped flowers are conspicuous and attractive. 

 

2009 9 April - Indigenous flowers_2

This third FDC features 4 plants, namely:

  • A Rs. 4. stamp shows the Cylindrocline Lorencei, a short endemic shrub with pinkish composite flowers confined to one region in the wild, Plaine Champagne;
  • The Rs. 8 stamp shows a Distephanus Populifolius, a rare endemic plant found only on dry exposed mountain tops, where it grows on rocky medium. It bears composite while and yellow flowers and its silvery leaves offer a perfect camouflage with its rocky surroundings.
  • A Rs. 15 stamp, which features the Aphloia Theiformis, an indigenous plant with various medicinal virtues, among which diuretic. It was also used extensively against malaria. It is quite common in upland humid forests and bears tiny white flowers at the base of the leaves;
  • A Rs. 22 stamp, picturing the Barleria Observatrix, an endemic shrub now confined to only Corps de Garde mountain. It bears nice small purple flowers, which are one of the most beautiful flowers of the island. 

2009 9 April - Indigenous flowers_1 

Other endemic plants

As part of the natural history series, a set of four stamps was issued on 10 March 1999 on the theme ‘endemic plants’. The set comprises of:

  • A Re. 1 stamp, showing a plant commonly known as bois cabri (of the verbenacae family – clerodendron laciniatum). It is a plant found in Rodrigues bearing leaves, which are different and with pink flowers;
  • A Rs. 2 stamp, which features a plant commonly known as bois chèvre, of the compositae family (senecio lamarckianus). It is a rare endemic shrub of Mauritius and grows on exposed cliffs. The tiny florets are yellow in colour;
  • A Rs. 5 is another rare endemic shrub of Mauritius, known as Cylindrocline Commersonii, also of the compositae family. It has thick leaves with woolly hairs;
  • A Rs. 9 stamp shows a psiadia pollicina, an endemic shrub of Mauritius, equally of the compositae family, mainly found on mountains.

 1999 10 March - Endemic plants

The envelope cover illustrates an endangered endemic shrub from Rodrigues, known as café marron (ramosmania rodriguesii).

Pignon d’inde

2014 28 March - Fauna and Flora2014 28 March - Bats postcard

On 28 March 2014, a set of 3 postage stamps was issued. The Rs. 25 stamp features the pignon d’Inde, a robust tropical plant, which can live beyond a year and is drought resistant. It originates from Central America. The leaves are pale green in colour of 3 to 5 lobes of phytotaxey spirals. The fruits have a pleasant taste, but can contain toxic properties due to the presence of albuminoidal called curcin. Ingestion can give rise to digestive problems. The leaves have curative properties against angina, hemorrhage, rheumatism, piles, malaria and distended bowels. The plant is used as a support to the vanilla tree. The post card cover depicts a fruit bat hanging on the pignon d’inde tree. 

Mazambron

In 2005, a series of four postage stamps on the fauna and flora on Round Island was released. The Rs. 25 showed a mazambron plant, an endemic plant classified as rare. It is traditionally used as a medicinal plant (see FDC above). 

Mangroves

Mangroves play an important role in the coastal eco system of Mauritius. Two species of mangroves, Bruguiera gymnorrhiza (L.) Lam., and Rhizophora muc ronata Lam., have been identified so far. The latter species is more dominant and occurs in pure stands in most of the swamps. In 1990, a series of 5 stamps was issued. The picture on the cover and the Rs. 1 stamp shows a mangrove tree.

1990 29 Nov - New Definitive Part II

Fern trees

The year 1989 was declared Year of the Environment in Mauritius. To mark this event, the Mauritius Postal Administration issued a set of 5 postage stamps on 11 March 1989. The set comprised 5 stamps, of which, a  Rs. 4 stamp, showing a fern tree. There are 2 species of indigenous tree ferns in Mauritius. These are Cyathea borbonica and Cyathea excelsa. In Mauritius, they are more commonly known as Fandia. The stem which is fibrous in nature is swollen at the base. It is an important component of the Mauritian native forest, which grows in the humid upland areas. The tree can reach a height of roughly 2 meters, with a dark, hairy, scaly trunk. Its spreading leaves are dark green fronds.

1988 1 Aug - New definitive Part I

Endemic trees of Mauritius

 Four postage stamps in the Natural History series were issued in 2001 to depict endemic trees of Mauritius. They consist of:

  • A Re. 1 stamp showing the Bois puant/ foetidia mauritiana. The tree derives its name from ‘bois puant’ because of the strong fetid smell of its oil;
  • A Rs. 3 stamp featuring the Bois d’Ebene/ Diospyros tessellaria is one of the twelve endemic species of ebony found in Mauritius. The bark is black and the wood is used to manufacture musical instruments and furniture;
  • A Rs. 5 stamp, illustrating the Mangliers de Hauts/ Sideroxylon puberulum, an endemic tree common in the forest of the Mauritius plateau. The wood is strong and rot-proof;
  • A Rs. 15 stamp showing the Bois d’éponge/ Gastonia mauritiana, another rare endemic tree which grows along the coastal regions.

 

2001 21 March - Trees of Mauritius

The envelope cover illustrates the Bois Gandine (Mathurina penduliflora) a threatened endemic tree from Rodrigues.

The Philatelist’s Pick: Modes of Transport in Mauritius: Air transport (Part III)

This blog is a third in a series dedicated to modes of transport in Mauritius. This third blog post zooms into air transport, through our postal heritage.

 Early days of air transport in Mauritius

 The first plane to fly over Mauritius took off on 2 June 1922 from the now 18-hole golf course of Gymkhana. It was a World War I British biplane brought to Mauritius by ship and reassembled for that purpose. After a few demonstrations over the island, the plane was dismantled and brought back to England.

 The first regional flight landed in Mon Choisy in the north of Mauritius on 10 September 1933 from Reunion Island. The two pioneering pilots were Maurice Samat and Paul Louis Lemerle. They flew on a Potez 43, named “Monique”. In November 1933, the plane was used to carry mails from Mauritius and Reunion and an airstrip in Mon Choisy continued to be used for the rare planes that came to Mauritius.

In 1970 a series of 4 postage stamps was issued to mark the 25th anniversary of Plaisance Civil Airport. The Rs. 2.50 stamp illustrated the Roland Garros Airplane, which landed in Mon Choisy in 1937.

IMG_0158

The first international flight from France landed in Mauritius in December 1936 on board a Farman 199 monoplane. The flight took 10 days, with stop-overs in Tunisia, Egypt, Djibouti and Madagascar.

 During World War II (1939 – 45), Mauritius became a strategic location for the British in the Indian ocean.

IMG_0162

They operated Catalina hydroplanes for long reconnaissance missions in the region. Planes landed in the bay of Mahébourg or Baie du Tombeau for refuelling. In 1995, to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of World War II, a series of 3 postage stamps was issued. One of the 3 – Rs. 5 stamp illustrated a Catalina hydroplanes at Baie du Tombeau.

IMG_0159.jpg

Construction of Plaisance Airport – a turning point

 Mauritius however did not have an airport that could be used by the Royal Air Force. In that context, it was decided to construct an airport near Mahébourg. Construction began in 1942 and was completed in 1943. Since then the airstrip at Mon Choisy was abandoned. The first landing at Plaisance airport was made on 24th November 1943 by an RAF Dakota. 1970 3 Oct - Plaisance civil airport

In 1971, to mark the silver jubilee of the construction of Plaisance civil airport, a set of 4 postage stamps was issues. The first day cover enveloppe illustrated Mauritius as a crossroad for the Indian Ocean, through the various stop-overs covered by flights that came to Mauritius at that time. It also showed a picture of the airport and Air France planes, which was the first international airplane to come to Mauritius. The Rs. 2.50 stamp illustrated the first airstrip in Mon Choisy in the North, prior to the opening of Plaisance airport and the Potez 43, which was used to link Mauritius to Reunion Island.  

 1945: First commercial flights

 Until 1945, flights arriving in Mauritius were used to carry mails only. The first commercial flight was operated by the Réseau de Lignes Aériennes Françaises Libres, which later became Air France. It landed in Mauritius in 1945, covering the route Madagascar – Reunion – Mauritius. It also carried fifteen passengers and three crew members.

In 1970, Mauritius and France issued two aero philatelic covers to mark the 25th anniversary of the first Air France flight to Mauritius. 

Air France1Air France 2

In 1995, another special aero philatelic cover was issued to mark the 50th anniversary of Air France’s presence in Mauritius.

Air France 50 ans

In 1947, Air France introduced a four-engine Douglas DC4 on the Paris – Plaisance route. The flight lasted two days, and had six stop-overs.

1er liasion aerienne Maurice France 1945

In November 1948, Qantas launched its first flight from Sydney to South Africa with stop-overs at Perth, Coco Islands and Mauritius. The aircraft used was a Lancastrian and the journey lasted forty-two hours.  In 1952, Qantas started using Lockheed Constellation aircrafts on the same route. Special aero philatelic covers were released, with stamps from the port of departure, stop-over destination and port of arrival, to mark the event.

Quantas1Quantas2Qunatas3

In January 1962, the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), which later became British Airways, started to service Mauritius. It operated a twenty-five-hour flight with stop-overs in Italy, Sudan, Kenya and Madagascar. In October 1962, BOAC used for the first time commercial jets, the De Havilland Comet 4, on the London-Plaisance route. The time for the journey was reduced to only seventeen hours. On that occasion, special covers were released, with stamps from each stop-over destination. Special aero philatelic covers were issued on the occasion of the flight flight between London and Mauritius. 

BOAC

 

On 15th August 1967, Air India started a fortnightly flight from Bombay (now Mumbai) to Plaisance. Most probably they used Boeing 707 aircrafts. In that context, two special aero philatelic covers were released, with one envelope showing stamps of Mauritius, and the other picturing stamps from India.

Air India 1Air India 2

1967 – The birth of our national airline

The national airline Air Mauritius was set up on 14th June 1967. It was born out of the visionary leadership of Amédée Maingard de la Ville-ès-Offans, a Mauritian entrepreneur who was already a pioneer in the tourism sector. Just a few months before Mauritius became independent, he obtained the support of the then First Minister, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam. It was decided to create a national airline company, with a consortium composed up of Air France, BOAC, Air India, Rogers and. co. and the Government of Mauritius. Mr Maingard became the first President and Director General of Air Mauritius.

Initially, the company operated only as a ground handling agent for other airlines already operating in Mauritius.

On 2 May 1970, another major international airline company, Lufthansa, inaugurated its flight to Mauritius. On that occasion, an official first day cover was released my the Government Post Office to mark the occasion.

1970 2 May - Lufthansa inaug flight_1

A number of aero philatelic envelopes and postal cards were also issued (these will soon be uploaded on a special page).

1972 – Air Mauritius launches its flight operations

It was only in 1972 that it flew its own aircraft, a Piper Navajo PA-31 leased from Air Madagascar. The commercial flights were limited to nearby Reunion island and Rodrigues island. On 13 September 1972, the first commercial flights linked Mauritius and Rodrigues.

Air Mauritius Rodrigues

With the increase in traffic, the Piper Navajo was replaced with a 16-seater Twin Otter that was acquired in 1975. 

To mark Air Mauritius international inaugural flights, an official first day cover and a miniature sheet were released on 31 October 1977. Four stamps included a 25 cs stamp, a 50 cs and a 75 cs stamp, all showing the twin otter planes. The Rs. 5 stamp represented a Boeing 707, which left for the first time for London on 31 October 1977. The emblem of Air Mauritius is the red-tailed tropical bird (Paille en queue), which is also featured on the 50cs stamp.

1977 31 oct - Air Mauritius inaugural flightminiature sheet Air Mauritius

 

By mid-1980, the government of Mauritius had become the majority shareholder. It also extended its network coverage in in 1983, with the addition of Rome and Zurich, and Paris in 1984, operated by a Boeing 747, which was commemorated by a special cover in November 1984. This was a major milestone in bridging Mauritius’s insularity to the rest of the world. 

Air Mauritius Paris flight

To mark the silver jubilee of Air Mauritius, a new official first day cover and a miniature sheet was released on 14 June 1993. It is composed of 4 stamps, (i) 40cs, representing a Bell 206B Jet Ranger helicopter, put in operations by Air Mauritius in 1985; (ii) Rs. 3, showing the taking off of a Boeing 747 SP, in operation since 1984. The aircraft was used for the first non-stop flights between Mauritius, Paris, Rome and Zurich; (iii) Rs. 4, showing an ATR 42, used for inter-island services, linking Mauritius to Reunion Isl. and Rodrigues. The plane was put in service in 1986; (iv) Rs. 10, showing a Boeing 767-200 ER, baptised the City of Port-Louis. This aircraft held the world record in 1988 for the longest non-stop distant. The FDC shows Air Mauritius route map.

1993 14 June - Silver jubilee Air Mauritius

Silver jubilee Air Mauritius

Over the years, the company acquired more airlines. Today, Air Mauritius covers a number of countries in Asia, Europe and Africa. It also has several weekly flights to Australia. Despite its small fleet compared to major global companies, it has strong connections with other companies, sharing code shares and partnerships with major companies, such as Lufthansa, Swiss Air and Emirates, to name but a few.

In 2017, Air Mauritius turns 50

On 14 July 2017, Air Mauritius celebrated its golden jubilee and issued a special commemorative cover to mark this occasion. 

2017 ir Mauritius

Air Mauritius fleet

In 50 years, Air Mauritius made remarkable strides. It is a national pride and is one of the largest Mauritian firms. With its fleet of 13 planes, it covers a network of 25 direct destinations, over 4 continents. It continues to work with other airline companies to reach bring Mauritius to the world and bring the world to Mauritius. 

I will soon create a special page on this blog on aero philately items relevant to Mauritius. The special page will include various first flights covers and special cards and covers featuring code shares with major companies operating in Mauritius.

 

The Philatelist’s Pick: Modes of Transport in Mauritius: Ships (Part II)

Part II of this blog is dedicated to ships and the role they played in the modern socio-economic development of Mauritius. 

Maritime transport in Modern Mauritius

When Mahé de Labourdonnais became the Governor of Isle de France, among other things, he built the city of Port-Louis and transferred the capital and the harbour there. Since then, Port Louis Harbour has played a key role in trading and  economic activities, as shown in the 75cs from 1970 Stamps series “Port Louis Old and new”.

1970 Port Louis

In 1996, a new set of 4 postage stamps was issued. The four ships depicted on the stamps are associated with various activities, namely trade, transport and administration of the modern Port-Louis Harbour. The set of stamps consists of (i) a 60 cs stamp, portraying SS Zambezia at the jettyo f Diego Garcia, Chagos Archipelagos, a ship built in 1903, used to carry commercial goods and animals such as cattle; (ii) Rs. 4 stamps, showing MV Sir Jules, especially built to sail between the Chagos Archipelagos and Agalega for copra trade (iii) Rs. 5 stamp, showing MV Mauritius at Quay C at Port Louis harbour. MV Mauritius was built in 1955 and used to carry passenger, cargo and livestock across Indian Ocean islands; (iv) Rs. 10 stamp shows MS Mauritius Pride at Port-Mathurin, Rodrigues, a multi-purpose vessel, which replaced MV Mauritius in 1990. It carries passengers, cargo, containers, edible oil and fuel oil in cargo tanks. The envelope cover shows Port-Louis harbour.

1996 30 Sep - Ships

To further illustrate the growing role of the harbour, a R. 1 stamp, part of a 2002 series marking the 10th Anniversary of the Republic illustrated cargo handling activities in Port Louis  Harbour.

2002 Port louis modern

In 2011 a special commemorative cover was issued  to mark the 35th Anniversary of the Mauritius Ports Authority (MPA), formerly known as Mauritius Marine Authority. The MPA regulates and controls the port sector and provides the main port infrastructure and other related services. The cover features a picture of Port-Louis from 1935.

2011 28 Oct - 35th Anniv MPA

To commemorate the 40 years of the Maritime wing of the Mauritius Police Force, a Special Commemorative Cover was issued on 7 April 2014. It celebrates 4 decades of pride, valour and solidarity (the motto). Since its creation in 1974, a number of patrol boats ensured the surveillance of Mauritian waters. The Cover shows the Coat of Arms, with the motto Pride, Valour and Solidarity. The medallion shows Poseidon, the God of the Sea. Four different types of patrol vessels are pictured on the cover. The Rs. 7 stamp is from the Bicentenary of Mahebourg series of 2006, showing Regatta.

2014 7 Apr - 40 yrs Maritime Wing MPF

Economic activities and leisure

Other important use of boats in Mauritius include inland transport for sugar, fisheries and tourism, amongst others.

Less known to the public, boats were used until 1950 for the carriage of sugar from factories to Port-Louis but disappeared because with the advent of diesel lorries, they became too expensive. A Rs. 10 stamp, issued in 1998, commemorates this activity, with a stamp showing a coastal barge unloading sugar at the Coaster’s Wharf in Port-Louis in the 1940s. 

1998 inland transport

Fisheries as a living

The fisheries sector continues to be an important contributor to national income. The  2cs stamp of the 1950 King George VI definitive series and the 2cs stamp of the 1953 Queen Elizabeth definitive series, both show the same daily scenery of fishermen in Grand-Port, one important economic activity of this part of the island, at the time. In 1987, in the ‘Bridges” series, the Rs. 2.50 stamp also features a fishing boat close to Cavendish Bridge on Rivière la Chaux in Mahebourg. 

George VI1953 QEII1987 bridge

In 1983, a set of 4 postage stamps, featuring fishery resources was issued. They show various fishing activities, including trap/ pot fishing, big game fishing with a blue marlin catch and the drying of octopus, a  activity typical of Rodrigues island.  

1983 7 Oct - Fisheries resources

Fishing activities also led to other occupations, notably boat construction and repars. In 1997, commemorating those “petits métiers”, a Rs. 5 stamp was issued, showing a shipwright (charpentier pirogue), giving a finishing touch to a small fishing boat. The scene was typical of fishing villages, where boat construction was done under banyan trees on the beach.

1997 petits metiers

The Tourism Industry:

The tourism industry is another main contributor of the Mauritian economy. In 1970, the country had about 18,000 visitors  and in the last few years the number of visitors reached almost 1 million annually. The first stamp to illustrate tourism in Mauritius was issued in 1970. It is a 60cs stamp, showing a scenery with tourists and boats by the beach. In 1985, a set of 4 stamps was issued to mark the 10th Anniversary of the World Tourism Organization, of which Mauritius is a member. The Rs. 10 stamp shows a small fishing boat in the north of the island, with the island Coin de Mire in the background.

In 1987, the then Minister of Tourism, Sir Gaetan Duval, organised the first Festival International de la Mer, to promote Mauritius as a tourist destination. A number of activities were organised, among which a Regatta race in Mahebourg (pictured in the Rs. 1.50 stamp), which is still organised. 

1987 5 Sep - festival international de la mer

The production and sales of reduced ship models  is another economic activity, geared in particular to tourist customers. In 2005, a set of postage stamp was released to highlight this very important aspect of the tourism industry in Mauritius. Mauritian artisans have a high quality workmanship and have gained a wide reputation in this sphere. The set comprises of 4 stamps; one souvenir sheet; and a set of 5 postcards (representing each of the ships pictured on the stamps. (i) Rs. 7 stamp shows a 100 gun warship, built at the end of the 17th century, one of the most decorated in the world, a tribute to Louis IV, the “Roi Soleil”; (ii) Rs. 8 stamp represents a sampan. The Chinese had reached such a state of perfection in their shipbuilding technique already 2000 years ago. It was revolutionary in two aspects: the stern hung rudder, which was used centuries before the Europeans; and the sail made of small sections of cloth stiffened by light bamboo battens; (iii) Rs. 9 stamp shows a Roman Galley, used by the roman empire to ensure the domination of the whole mediterranean sea; (iv) Rs. 16 stamp features a drakkar, a viking long ship decorated with fearsome dragon’s, snake’s or lion’s head, which was detachable. The vikings believed that they should not enter their home shores with these heads so as not to offend the spirits protecting their tribes.

2005 24 Dec - Ship modelsMC ship model 2005

Last but not least, as an island, water sports are an important leisure activities. As mentioned already, regattas are regularly organised in Mahebourg and in Grand Gaube, two major sites for the lovers of sailing according to local traditions. Regatta involves mainly the traditional local pirogue, a boat that has evolved from the 18th century French chaloupe. The pirogues are usually made of wood known for their resistance to splitting. The regatta tradition started in the south of the island in the 19th century. The 1987 Festival International de la Mer and 2006 Bicentenary of Mahebourg stamp series, respectively features regatta races on.

Mauritian athletes also participate in international sailing competitions. The 1985 stamp series marking the Jeux des Iles de l’Ocean Indien and the 2000 stamp series for the Olympic Games held in Sydney notably features sailing competitions, which saw the participation of our athletes.

 

 

 

 

The Philatelist’s Pick: Modes of transport in Mauritius: Ships (Part I)

This blog is about role of maritime transport in Mauritius and their representations on postal stamps. It is in two parts: Part 1 takes a historical perspective, while Part 2, to be published at the end of this week, will look at the importance of maritime transport in modern Mauritius. 

Historical Background

The history of Mauritius is intimately linked to maritime adventures and expansionist activities of the world’s rich nations. It is now well established that the Arabs were the first to visit Mauritius, probably around the 14th Century, although it is difficult to say with certainty when they first landed on the island. In 1502 Alberto Cantino created the first European, using an Arab map. Mauritius was mentioned under the Arab nameDina Arobi (also mentioned: Dina Mozare, for Rodrigues, Dina Margabim for Reunion).

2002: Mauritius on world maps – a testimony of Mauritius being known to early navigators

2002 12 Sep - Maps of South West Indian Ocean
This set of postage stamps released on 18 September 2002, depicts 4 maps of the South West Indian Ocean are those of (i) Re. 1 – Alberto Cantino, from 1502, a Portuguese cartographer. On this map, Mauritius is identified as Dina Arobi; (ii) Rs. 3 – map by Jorge Reinel from 1520, another Portuguese cartographer. It is considered as the earliest and most accurate map of Mauritius of that period; (iii) Rs. 4, a map by Diogo Ribiero, a Portuguese cartographer and royal cosmographer. This map provided the most accurate delineation of the explored world; (iv) Rs. 10 – a map by Gerard Mercator, a flemish geographer best known for the map projection that bears his name, and still used today by navigators. His most influential works, the 1569 map of the world (pictured on the stamp) and the Atlas, a collection of maps he designed and engraved. 

Discovery, colonization and maritime battles

The Portuguese: Historical evidence shows that the island was visited in 15th Century by the Portuguese, when Vasco da Gama made its entry in the Indian Ocean in 1498. The first Portuguese to visit the island around 1511 is thought to be Domingo Fernandez Pereira. The island was later named Cirne on Portuguese maps. They however, did not established a settlement and therefore left no physical trace on the island. 

The first settlements by the Dutch: Landing: 1598; First settlement: 1638 – 1658; Second settlement: 1664 – 1710.

The Dutch, under the commandership of Captain Van Warwick, landed in the South East coast on Mauritius on 20 September 1598. The bay where the Dutch landed was called Warwick Bay (now Grand Port), after the commander, but the island was named Mauritius, after Prince Mauritius Van Nassau, the then stadtholder of Holland. A series of four postage stamps and a miniature sheet were released in 1998 to mark the 400th anniversary of Dutch landing in Mauritius. The miniature sheet pictures a scene of the arrival of Dutch fleet in Mauritius.

MS 400 anniv dutch landing1998 18 Sep - 400th anniversary Dutch Landing

For the first 40 years, however, the Dutch did not establish a colony but rather used Mauritius as a stop-over, for ship repairs and food provision. In 1606, two expeditions, led by Admiral Corneille, and consisting of eleven ships and 1,357 men, landed for the first time in the northwest part of the island. The bay was called “Rade des Tortues (today Port-Louis) due to the great number of terrestrial tortoises. The first permanent settlement was established in 1638 by Cornelius Gooyer, it ended in 1658. He landed on board the vessel Maen. In 1664, a second attempt was made, but the settlements never developed enough to produce dividends and the Dutch abandoned Mauritius for good in 1710. They are remembered for the introduction of sugar-cane, domestic animals and deer. It was from Mauritius that the Dutch navigator Tasman set out to discover the western part of Australia.

 The French Period: 1715 – 1810

 In September 1715, Captain Guillaume Dufresne d’Arsel took possession of Mauritius in the name of King Louis XV of France on board the ship “Le Chasseur”. The island was renamed “Isle de France”. The first settlers however started occupation in 1721. The development of the island took off with the arrival in 1735 of Governor Mahé de Labourdonnais.  

To commemorate the 300th anniversary of French landing in Mauritius, a joint issue was released by France and Mauritius in 2015. The stamps, the presentation pack and the booklet all feature a French sailing ship entering the “Baie des Molusques”.

The Port-Louis harbour, developed by governor Mahé de Labourdonnais, pictured in several stamp issues and in a 2006 miniature sheet (see below), became a supply harbour for the French Navy and played an important role in the development of the island. 

2006 4 Feb - Bicentenary of Mahebourg postcard_11999 11 Feb - 300e naissance de Labourdonnais

During the French period, another ship made history and inspired a world-famous novel. The Saint Géran was a sailing ship that belonged to the naval fleet of the French East India Company. Built in the port of Lorient in France, it set for Isle de France on 24 March 1744, as portrayed in the miniature sheet below.

Wreck of St Geran

On the night of 17 August 1744, it wrecked on the north-east fringing reef of Mauritius and broke up along the stretch of coral located near Île Ambre. Falling masts stove in the boats before they could be launched, a makeshift raft capsized and only 9 survivors who made it to shore survived.  In total, 149 sailors, 13 passengers and 30 slaves died.

1994 18 Aug - 250th anniversary wreck of St Geran

This shipwreck provided the basis for 1750’s best selling novel in Europe, Paul et Virginie by Bernadin de St. Pierre. A series of stamps was released in 1968 featuring some scenes from the book storyline.

1968 Paul et virginie FDC
1968: bicentenary of the visit of Bernardin de St. Pierre

 Pirates and privateers

During the seven years war (1756-1763) Napoleonic wars between France and England, “Isle de France” became a base from which French corsairs, enlisted by the  French East India company, organised successful raids on British commercial ships. The raids continued until 1810 when a strong British expedition was sent to capture the island.

In 1972, a series of 4 postage stamps was released to illustrate some of the most famous pirates and privateers that operated in the Indian Ocean and notably in Isle de France. The 15cs stamp features a pirate dhow entering the river Tamarin; the 60 cs stamp shows an image of a hypothetical treasure excavated in Mauritius; The R. 1 stamp features Francois Thomas Le Même and his ship Hirondelle, which he armed for privateering during the Napoleonic war and from which he successfully attacked and captured 2 British vessels, which he brought back to Isle de France; and the Rs. 2.50 features Robert Surcouf. 

1972 17 Nov - Pirates and privateers

Robert Surcouf was a particularly famous privateer (or corsaire). He operated in the Indian Ocean between 1789 and 1801, and again from 1807 to 1808 and captured over 40 prizes. He became very rich as a ship-owner. In January 1814, he became a colonel in the National Guard of Saint-Malo. A stamp was issued in 1973 to mark the bicentenary of the birth of Surcouf. The stamp shows the capture of a 40-gun British vessel Kent by Surcouf onboard his 18-gun brig Confiance, which made him famous.

1974 21 March - 200th birth of Surcouf

 

Landing of the British and the conquest of the Island: 1810 – 1968

A first attack from the British on the French was launched at Grand Port in August 1810, but the main attack was launched in December of the same year from Rodrigues, successfully captured already by the British. On 14 August 1810, the British took possession of Ile de la Passe, a fortified islet controlling the entrance of the harbour of Grand Port. The battle lasted 5 days. 

The fierce battle saw the defeat of the British fleet, but the British landed in large numbers in the north of the island and rapidly overpowered the French, who capitulated. By the Treaty of Paris in 1814, Isle de France, renamed Mauritius, was ceded to Great Britain, together with Rodrigues and the Seychelles.

The battle of Vieux Grand Port is pictured in a number of stamp series. In 1978, a 90cs stamp in a new definitive series was released showing a scene of the battle, with the four British warships La Magicienne, Le Sirius, La Nereide and Iphigenie under the orders of Commodore Samuel Pym and French warships Le Victor, Le Ceylan, La Bellone and La Minerve under the command of Captain Duperré in the background. 

battle of view GP

In 2010 , a new set of stamps was released to commemorate the bicentenary of the Battle of Vieux Grand Port. The two stamps are (i) Rs. 14, picturing a scene of the Battle at sea; and (ii) Rs. 21, showing a view of Ile de la Passe. The cover depicts the monument of Pointe des Régates, erected in the memory of the battle. The portraits of Captains Duperré and Willoughby appear in the background.   

2010 28 Aug - Bicentenary of battle of Grand Port

 

Slaves and Indian immigrants were also brought to Mauritius on board ships from Africa and India, as pictured in a Rs. 10 stamps from a 1984 series marking the 150th Anniversary of the abolition of slavery and beginning of Indian immigration. 

 

indian immigrants ship

Our Coats of Arms

The Coats of Arms design was first issued in 1895, representing a 3-mast ship, three sugarcane plants, a key and wedge and a star, called in heraldry, the pile and the mullet. Stamps were reprinted over many years with various types of inks and on different types of papers to avoid fraud. In 1906, under the administration of Sir Cavendish Boyle, the Arms were corrected because some elements of the designed appeared to be against the rules of the heraldry. A re-designed version was issued in 1910: the galleon was replaced by a lymphad (a galley – the caravelle), palm trees replaced the sugar cane; the key was flipped and the star became five pointed. The overall designed remained however the same. The inscription ‘postage and revenue’ was included on each side of the stamps.

Maritime routes and mailing ships

A set of 5 postage stamps was issued on 2 July 1976 picturing 5 vessels which play an important role in Mauritius. (i) A 10cs stamps shows the Pierre Loti, a mailing vessel part of Messageries Maritimes (together with 3 other vessels: Ferdinand de Lesseps; Labourdonnais and Jean Laborde). The ships were routed from Marseille, to Port-Said, Djibouti, Mombassa, Dar es Salaam, Majunga, Nosy Be, Diego Suarez, Tamatave, Reunion and Mauritius; (ii) A 15cs stamp featuring the Secunder, 1907, the former iron 3-masted screw steamship Ardengorm, built by Ramage and Ferguson, at Leith, in 1881.   (iii) A  50cs stamp, featuring the Hindoustan, a steamship, which entered into service between India and Suez in 1842. It’s route was extended to Singapore 2 years later (v) A 60cs stamp features the St Géran sailing in 1740; (vi) Rs. 2.50 shows the Maen, which was the vessel of which the first Dutch Governor, Gooyer, reached the shores of Mauritius on 7 May 1638.

1976 2 July - Port Louis Harbour OFC

In 1980, another set of postage stamps was issued featuring 4 ships. These were issued for the International Stamp Exhibition “London 1980” held between 6 – 14 May 1980, under the patronage of H.M the Queen. The 4 stamps feature (i) A 25cs, the Emirne, the first steamer of the Messageries Imperiales to operate on the line Mauritius – Reunion – Suez. It performed 10 trips on this line between 1864 – 1866; (ii) A R. 1 stamp features the Boissevain, a 14,000 tons liner, built in Hamburg, which came into service between the Far East and South Africa in 1938. It also provided accommodation to some 400 passengers in 2 classes. It was used as a troop transport during World War II. It’s first visit to Port-Louis was in 1948 and the last one was on the 2nd May 1968; (iii) Rs. 2, featuring the Frigate La Boudeuse, built in Nantes. The French navigator Bougainville undertook his historical voyage around the world in 1767 on board this ship. One of his main objective was to introduce spice plants to Mauritius and Reunion. The famous naturalist Commerson joined the expedition. La Boudeuse reached Mauritius on 8 Nov. 1768; (iv) Rs. 5 depicts the vessel Sea Breeze, a sailing boat of the 19th century, mainly concerned with the transportation of sugar cane to England. 

1980 6 May London 1980 ships

Lloyd’s List is the oldest international newspaper in the world. Since its launch in 1734, the British government allowed mail to be delivered free of charge, provided it carried shipping intelligence and information. Mauritius, together with other Commonwealth countries, issued a series of 4 postage stamps in 1984 to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the newspaper, which is still read today. (i) The 25cs stamp features the wreck of the cargo vessel SS Tayeb  on the 12th of February 1972 after the passage of Cyclone Dolly in Mauritius near the shores of Les Salines in Port Louis, against the sand bank of Barkly Island; (ii) the R. 1 stamp features the wreck of S. S Taher in March 1901 off the coast of Port-Louis; (iii) The Rs. 5 stamp shows the 26-gun British ship East Indian Man Triton, which was captured by the privateer Robert Surcouf on 29 January 1796; (iv) The Rs. 10 stamp shows M.S Astor, a german cruise ship, ordered by the Mauritian-based Marlan Corporation. 

1984 23 May - 250th anniversary Lloyd's list

Mauritius: on the route of great explorers

In 1997, a set of 5 postage stamps was issued to mark a series of anniversaries and events. The R. 1 stamp represents Jean Francois de Galaup, Comte de Lapérouse. He lived for some years in Mauritius (and married a Mauritian, that he met in 1774) but was later commissioned by the King to carry out scientific and exploration trip around the world.

1997 9 June - Anniversaries and events

Charles Darwin, the world famous English naturalist, geologist and biologist, best known for its contribution to the science of evolution, undertook a survey voyage around the world on board HMS Beagle, pictured on the Rs. 10 stamps of the 1982 stamp issue, commemorating the voyage of Darwin. The ship anchored at Port-Louis, Mauritius on 29 April 1836.

1982 19 April - Darwin

On 13 June 2001, a set of 4 postage stamps was issued to commemorate the bicentenary of  Baudin Expedition. In 1800, Napoleon Bonaparte, commissioned Post-Captain Nicolas Baudin, to explore the South West, West and Northern coastline of New Holland (today Australia). As the observations were to be conducted in the fields of geography and natural history, the leading ship was names Géographe, and its consort vessel, Naturaliste. A third vessel was called Casuarina. The expedition sailed on 19 October 1800 from the French port of Le Havre and reached Isle de France on 16th March 1801. When the expedition sailed again on 25th April, a number of scientists stayed on the island. On its way back to France in 1803, the expedition called again at Isle de France. (i) The Re. 1 portrays the two ships Géographe and Naturaliste; (ii) Rs. 4 depicts the route taken by the ships on their inward and outward journeys, and portrays Baudin (who died in Port-Louis in Sep 1803). 

2001 13 June - bicentenaire expedition Baudin

Mauritius and World War II

In 1995, a  set of 3 postage stamps to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II was released. In 1941, hundreds of Mauritians left Port-Louis on board the Talamba for Egypt, where they served in the war. This set of stamps with a unique denomination of three Rs. 5 stamps, pays tribute to those soldiers dead or alive, who contributed with their blood, sweat and toil in bringing peace in the world. This Rs. 5 portrays HMS Mauritius, a cruiser equipped with 12 six-inch guns and 8 four-inch guns. It participated in the invasion of Sicily in July 1943 and in D-Day landing in Normandy on 6 June 1944.

WWII

 

 

The second part of this blog will talk about maritime transport in modern Mauritius