World Stamps

By Denise McCarty

Great Britain’s Remarkable Lives set honors 10 notable people

March 07, 2014 12:00 PM

  • Royal Mail honors 10 people on a set of Remarkable Lives stamps to be issued March 25: Roy Plomley, Barbara Ward, Joe Mercer, Kenneth More, Dylan Thomas, Alec Guinness, Noor­unissa Inayat Khan, Max Perutz, Joan Littlewood and Abram Games. Guinness has been featured on a United States stamp as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars.

Great Britain’s Royal Mail celebrates the achievements of 10 people born in 1914 on its Remarkable Lives stamps to be issued March 25. Actor Alec Guinness, writer Dylan Thomas and graphic artist and stamp designer Abram Games are among those honored.

The 10 nondenominated first-class stamps comprise the fourth set in a series honoring famous people.

The series began in 2009 with the Eminent Britons stamps (Scott 2692-2701). The Britons of Distinction stamps were issued in 2012 (2997-3006), and the Great Britons stamps in 2013 (3157-3166).

Each stamp in the Remarkable Lives set reproduces a black-and-white photograph of the person being commemorated.

Inscribed at the bottom of each design is the person’s name, years of birth and death, and profession.

The most intriguing description, “SOE agent in occupied France,” appears on the stamp honoring Noorunissa Inayat Khan.

She worked under the code name “Madeline” as a secret agent wireless officer of the British Special Operations Executive, the SOE, in Paris in 1943.

She is shown in uniform on the stamp.

Khan also is the oldest of the group of 10 on the Remarkable Lives stamps. She was born either Jan. 1 or Jan. 2, according to different sources, in Moscow to an American mother and an Indian father of royal descent.

Khan was educated in Paris, but escaped to England after France was occupied by the Nazis.

After joining the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, she was recruited by the Special Operations Executive.

While working as a secret agent in Paris, Khan was captured by the Gestapo. She refused to give up any secrets and was executed in 1944 at Dachau.

She posthumously was awarded the French Croix de Guerre and the British George Cross.

Continuing in age chronologically, Roy Plomley, “broadcaster and writer,” was born Jan. 20.

He created the BBC radio show Desert Island Discs in 1942 and served as its presenter for 43 years.

Royal Mail said of the program’s premise: “His simple, elegant idea was to invite guests from different professions and spheres of public life to select eight pieces of music — the ‘discs’ — that they would want with them if stranded on an imaginary Caribbean island.”

Desert Island Discs is still on the air, making it the second longest-running radio entertainment program after The Grand Ole Opry, first broadcast in 1925.

Guinness, born April 2, is described as a “stage and screen actor” on his stamp. The photograph, taken by Steve Schapiro, shows him applying stage makeup.

In his more than 60-year career, Guinness played a variety of roles, including the colonel in the 1957 film The Bridge Over the River Kwai, for which he received an Oscar; and fellow Remarkable Lives stamp honoree Dylan Thomas in the Broadway play Dylan, for which he won a Tony award.

He also portrayed Jedi knight Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars film trilogy. He is depicted in the role of this fictional character on a stamp in the United States Postal Service’s Star Wars issue of May 25, 2007 (Scott 4143i).

Guinness was knighted in 1959.

“Molecular biologist and Nobel laureate” Max Perutz was born May 19 in Vienna, Austria. Known as the father of molecular biology, Perutz devoted much of his life to the study of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen.

He moved to Cambridge in 1936 to pursue his research.

At the beginning of World War II, he was interned as an enemy alien and deported to Canada, where he and other scientists formed a de facto university. He was released in 1941, returning to Cambridge and working on a wartime project for the British in 1942.

In 1962, the Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded jointly to Perutz and John Cowdery Kendrew “for their studies of the structures of globular proteins.”

The stamp honoring Barbara Ward, born May 23, is inscribed “economist and broadcaster,” but the new-issue announcement from Royal Mail elaborated, “A passionate and powerful intellectual, as well as a prolific writer and lecturer, Ward worked tirelessly to influence policy makers, persistently reminding them of their international responsibilities.”

The announcement also said: “Barbara Ward saw that for the world to survive and thrive, fair sharing of resources and wealth was imperative. With her husband Robert Jackson, an administrator for the United Nations, she observed significant projects in India and Africa, where she realised the importance of economic relationships between established and emerging countries.”

Among the many honors she received, she was made a dame of the British empire in 1974 and became Baroness Jackson of Lodsworth two years later.

Born July 29, Games is described simply as “graphic designer” on his stamp.

During his career, he designed almost 300 posters for the travel industry, for various products and for the war effort during WWII.

Games also designed a coffeemaker, a circular vacuum cleaner and a portable duplicator.

Two of Games’ posters are reproduced on a British souvenir sheet issued Jan. 9, 2013, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the London Underground subway system (Scott 3133). One poster proclaims “A train every 90 seconds,” and the other advertises the London Zoo.

He designed the 3-penny denomination in Great Britain’s 1948 London Olympics set (Scott 272) and the 1961 4d Festival of Britain stamp (291), among other stamps.

Games was awarded an Order of the British Empire in 1957 and appointed royal designer for industry in 1959.

Joe Mercer is the only honoree in the Remarkable Lives set from the sports world.

Born Aug. 9, he enjoyed a 50-year career in soccer, first as a player and later as a manager.

He was made a member of Order of the British Empire in 1976 for services to soccer.

Royal Mail reported that Mercer “embodied charm, sporting values and humble good humour.” His authorized biography by Gary James is titled Joe Mercer, OBE: Football with a Smile.

Mercer’s stamp reads, “football player and manager.”

Like Guinness, Kenneth More is described on his stamp as a “stage and screen actor.” However, he started on a different career path — Canadian fur trapper — before he tried acting.

One of the most popular British stars of the late 1950s through the 1970s, he appeared in several films, as well as The Forsyte Saga, Father Brown and other television series.

Royal Mail said More “was the actor who made the character of the middle-class Englishman his own.”

More was born Sept. 20.

Joan Littlewood, “theater director and writer,” was born Oct. 6. She also is called the mother of the modern theater.

In Littlewood’s obituary published Sept. 24, 2002, in The New York Times, Benedict Nightingale wrote: “Ms. Littlewood’s Theater Workshop, based in a shabby old playhouse in a poor section of East London, won an international reputation with seasons of offbeat work that she staged by herself. These included Oh What a Lovely War, a vaudeville-style re-creation of key events in the First World War; The Quare Fellow and The Hostage, two plays by her protege, the Irish dramatist Brendan Behan; and A Taste of Honey, a bleak portrait of life in Northern England by the 18-year-old Shelagh Delaney.”

The youngest in the Remarkable Lives set, Dylan Thomas was born Oct. 27, 1914, in Swansea, Wales Oct. 27. He died in 1953 at age 39 while on a performance tour in New York City.

The stamp is inscribed “poet and writer” in two languages, Welsh and English.

On a web page devoted to the Welsh writer, the BBC summed up the short life: “He wrote poems, short stories and scripts for film and radio, which he often performed himself. His public readings in America were highly acclaimed, and his mellifluous voice was celebrated in his numerous radio broadcasts.

“Dylan Thomas’ most celebrated works include Under Milk Wood, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, Fern Hill and A Child’s Christmas.”

The London design firm Purpose designed the Remarkable Lives stamps, using photographs from a variety of sources.

International Security Printers produced the stamps by offset in sheets of 50, sold in panes of 25 at most postal outlets. The stamps measure 35 millimeters by 35mm and are perforated gauge 14.5.

The current domestic-rate in Great Britain is 60p. It will increase to 62p March 31.

Products to be offered in conjunction with the Remarkable Lives stamps include a first-day cover, a set of 10 postcards reproducing the designs of the stamps, a presentation pack including the stamps and text by writer and architectural historian David Lawrence, and a facsimile pack with reproductions of the 1951 Festival of Britain stamp designed by Games and text by the British Postal Museum and Archive curator Douglas Muir.

Royal Mail’s shop on the Internet is located at

Ordering information also is available from Royal Mail, Tallents House, 21 S. Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh, EH12 9PB, Scotland.

Royal Mail’s two agencies in the United States are Interpost, Box 420, Hewlett, NY 11557; and the British Stamp Service in North America, 1 Unicover Center, Cheyenne, WY 82008.