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Norman Sillman and the 1996 Northern Irish Pound Coin Design

Started by Galapagos, April 04, 2010, 02:05:51 AM

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Click on the link below to see how delicate matters of design can be in Northern Ireland:

The Strange Story of the Northern Irish Two Pence

N.B. I had to lock the above thread because of the controversy it attracted.

When I briefly corresponded with Mr Sillman last year, here is what he had to say about the matter:

"The Northern Ireland pound was part of a national competition set, with elaborate prohibitions for party reasons. I was in N. Ireland for a short time near Limavaday where people were fond of the gold Celtic torc found there. From art history I knew of the pre-Catholic Celtic crosses, and my Irish plant books told me of the Yellow Pimpernel around Loch Neagh. I couldn't lose! No politics."

Mr Sillman died in 2013.


Did you just hear that odd sound? That was a loud "duh" coming from somewhere near my computer screen. ;) Until today I had no idea that this "ring-cross" was a combination of two elements. I have that coin, the Schön catalog even explains the two parts, and yet I had somehow thought that the collar and the cross were one. And indeed, by not choosing a Roman-Catholic or Anglican-Protestant design, he created a piece that people could live with and maybe even be proud of ...



Quote from: chrisild on April 04, 2010, 12:02:43 PM
Until today I had no idea that this "ring-cross" was a combination of two elements.

Neither did I originally - at first glance, it resembles a rounded quadrant. I remember that somebody commented on the Royal Mint forum (when it existed) that it looked like the symbol used by Quisling. I strongly disagreed with that, but the original comment, and my counter-comment, were deleted by the RM.

I've also heard it called a "sun cross".


Well, Quisling's cross stayed within the ring so to say, and thus is a little different. Interesting, the Celtic Cross is used by organizations such as the GAA (this logo appeared on an Irish collector coin last year) and by "neo"-nazis (here for example it appears right at the top of the page). However, it is of course not commonly perceived as a nazi symbol per se. So I think that combining the two elements, thus creating something that for many (not only) in Northern Ireland will be something familiar and positive, was a smart move. "I couldn't lose" indeed. :)



Quote from: Rupert on April 04, 2010, 05:40:54 PM
I've also heard it called a "sun cross".

That must be ironic.  Us lot from Norn Iron only see the sun on our two week hols in the Med.

Seriously though, this must be one of the best £1 designs and worth owning in BU or Proof, as this must be one of the most easily worn and most often forged coins, so you don't get to see a quality example that often in circulation.


Likewise, had never seen the torque. Shameful, as I am very fond of Celtic torques. I still learn something every day.

An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.


Here is one of Mr Sillman's preliminary sketches for the design. Probably his idea of overlaying the cross with the torque came later. I am grateful to Mr Sillman's grandson, Will Coles, for sending me this image of his work.

Visit the website of The Royal Mint Museum.

See: The Royal Mint Museum.