Author Topic: The story behind the Irish pound coin  (Read 1721 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline <k>

  • Moderator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 19 723
The story behind the Irish pound coin
« on: September 02, 2016, 02:12:35 PM »

Ireland: One pound, 1990.  Irish red deer: Cervus elaphus.


The design is by Irish artist Thomas Ryan and depicts a stag: the male of the species.

Offline <k>

  • Moderator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 19 723
Re: The story behind the Irish pound coin
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2016, 02:13:50 PM »
Back in 1990, long before Ireland joined the euro, the Republic issued a new circulation coin: a pound coin, which was at the time the highest circulating denomination of the coinage, and in fact it remained so until the demise of the Irish pound. Prior to 1990, the bronze decimal coins bore designs of medieval Celtic ornamental birds by Miss Gabriel Hayes, whilst the cupro-nickel coins carried designs by Percy Metcalfe, which had originally appeared on the predecimal coinage. The design on the pound coin was by Irish artist Thomas Ryan and depicted an Irish red deer (Cervus elaphus). The animal depicted was specifically a stag, the male of the species. The stag was executed in the style of the old Metcalfe designs and fitted seamlessly into the existing coinage.

Since the Irish 20 pence coin, which was released in 1986, had used Metcalfe’s design of an Irish horse from the old half-crown, it was a surprise to find that the new pound coin did not follow this pattern. I consider Mr Ryan’s splendid stag to be a classic in its own right, but it was only recently that I came to wonder how this particular design had been chosen. Were any other animals considered? Was there a competition?

Offline <k>

  • Moderator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 19 723
Re: The story behind the Irish pound coin
« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2016, 02:14:35 PM »
I decided to ask Michael E Kenny, the chairman of the Numismatic Society of Ireland, via email. Mr Kenny kindly replied in some detail:

I have spoken to Tom Ryan, Artist and past president of the Royal Hibernian Academy, also Colm Gallagher, department of Finance, retired, and can report as follows:

A new design in the Metcalfe style was proposed for the new Irish pound coin. Rumour has it that the stag was the personal choice of An Toiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Charles Haughey, who had introduced a herd of deer to an island he owned off the Kerry coast. Louis O'Byrne of the Central Bank was tasked with working to a very tight deadline and he approached Tom, asking should the arts council be consulted. Tom advised that this would entail months of planning, many meetings and enormous expense. “When is the deadline?” asked Tom. “Next Wednesday”, replied Louis. “I will do it”, said Tom and promptly took himself off to the Natural History Museum, Dublin, to sketch a large stuffed and mounted red stag. A cabinet minister persuaded his colleagues that the word "punt" should appear and Tom insisted that his initials TR should appear below the exergue line, like Metcalfe's in the pre-decimal coins.

Offline <k>

  • Moderator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 19 723
Re: The story behind the Irish pound coin
« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2016, 02:16:02 PM »
The use of the word “punt” is interesting. The denominations were given in both words and numerals on Ireland’s predecimal coinage of 1928 to 1970, and those words were of course in the Irish language. However, the denomination was never shown in words on any of the other decimal coins, at any time, so the pound coin is inconsistent in this respect.  In any case, the pound coin includes a most stylishly exuberant pound sign on its reverse, so the word “punt” is unnecessary.

Mr Kenny tells me that the Irish referred to the coin simply as a “pound coin”, since English is the everyday language of the majority of the population, even though Irish is officially the first language. The word “punt” is Irish and is therefore only used when speaking Irish. The country name is given as Eire, but likewise that word is Irish and is only used in the context of the Irish language. Mr Kenny tells me that the English often address letters to “Dublin, Eire”, which is to mix languages, and that the correct address in English is “Dublin, Ireland”, whilst in Irish it is “Baile atha Cliath, Eire”.

Offline <k>

  • Moderator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 19 723
Re: The story behind the Irish pound coin
« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2016, 02:17:02 PM »
The founders of the Irish Free State had understandably expended considerable time and effort in designing its coinage, which was an important national symbol of the newly created state. The process of choosing the designs for the decimal coinage appears to have been a more hurried affair. By then the Republic was well established, but many years had elapsed since the first coinage was chosen, and the government of the day had more business to attend to than in the late 1920s, when the state was less visible and less was expected of it. Since the occasions on which new designs were chosen had been relatively few, it is apparent that, going into 1990, the relevant politicians had little idea of what the process entailed. Perhaps this is not surprising, since, over in the United Kingdom, the Royal Mint, despite its long experience, did not establish its Advisory Committee until 1922. That committee deals with issues arising from design proposals and liaises with the UK Treasury.

It was in fact the Royal Mint that minted the Irish pound coins. Perhaps the Royal Mint and its Advisory Committee would have preferred a longer lead time, but they had to obey the wishes of their client, the Irish government. It is fortunate that Mr Ryan was able to rise to the challenge and finish the project in record time.

Offline <k>

  • Moderator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 19 723
Re: The story behind the Irish pound coin
« Reply #5 on: September 02, 2016, 02:18:39 PM »
In March 1990, the Minister for Finance, Albert Reynolds, made the following remarks about the pound coin:

Mr. Tom Ryan, President of the Royal Hibernian Academy was commissioned to prepare the drawings of the new coin. These were based on photographs of actual red deer submitted by Mr. Seán Ryan of County Cork, an acknowledged expert in this field. The Arts Council who were consulted at an early stage, agreed with the choice of the red deer.


I assume that the artist would have consulted these photos in order to ensure that his rendition of the stag was anatomically correct. Mr Kenny commented to me:

Tom Ryan certainly did consult an expert on deer before proceeding with his work. Tom was well aware that the general public would not notice any discrepancies in the design, but he was equally aware that experts in the field would gleefully pounce on any mistakes. He was advised that the antlers had a particular number of 'nodules' or points on the branches which alter during the rucking/mating season. Tom revised his sketch to ensure anatomical correctness, as indeed Metcalfe had done in 1927.

As for the Arts Council being consulted at an early stage, the word “early” is perhaps open to interpretation. No doubt it was consulted at some later stage, but given the excellence of Mr Ryan’s design, it may well have had little to do other than to commend it.

Offline <k>

  • Moderator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 19 723
Re: The story behind the Irish pound coin
« Reply #6 on: September 02, 2016, 02:22:50 PM »

Ireland: 50 ecu gold collector coin, 1990.

Image copyright of Goldberg Coins.



The Minister for Finance added in his announcement of March 1990 that he would issue sets of proof silver and gold coins to commemorate the Irish Presidency of the European Council. They would consist of a gold 50 ECU piece and silver 10 and 5 ECU pieces. The coins would be purely commemorative and not legal tender.

The Government decided that the design of the red deer selected for the £1 coin should be retained for the ECU coin. Given the increased awareness about conservation of the environment, the symbol of the Irish red deer is very appropriate. On the obverse side, it is intended to reproduce the harp surrounded by the 12 stars which is the logo of the European Community. The coin denomination will appear on this side also.

The ECU was an abbreviation of “European Currency Unit”. Because the French had once had a coin called the ecu, the name “ECU” was ultimately ditched in favour of “the euro”.

Mr Kenny advised me:

When Tom Ryan designed the ECU coins, he used the stag design and simply flashed a scene of the Kerry landscape as a background. This gave the coins a medallic effect which I think you will agree is quite charming. These coins are well documented here:

The 1990 'Irish Presidency' ECU coins

The amended deer design, with the hills in the background, is charming indeed.

 
« Last Edit: September 02, 2016, 02:45:54 PM by <k> »

Offline <k>

  • Moderator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 19 723
Re: The story behind the Irish pound coin
« Reply #7 on: September 02, 2016, 02:24:37 PM »
When I was a child growing up in England, the Irish penny and ha'penny were among my first "foreign" coins, and I was fascinated that there was another world across the sea where things (meaning money and coins) were "the same but different". I have always been fond of wildlife, and that is another reason why I liked those coins, so I am pleased to have learnt a little more about this later addition to Mr Metcalfe's concept.

My special thanks to Michael E Kenny, for taking the time and trouble to research the background to these beautiful coins, and also to those whom he consulted, namely Tom Ryan, Colm Gallagher, and Louis O'Byrne. Like Mr Kenny, they are all, incidentally, members of the Numismatic Society of Ireland.

Offline <k>

  • Moderator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 19 723
Re: The story behind the Irish pound coin
« Reply #8 on: September 02, 2016, 02:29:09 PM »



Another look at the pound coin.

Image courtesy of COINZ.eu