From the Irish Archives

Started by Galapagos, September 08, 2009, 11:07:39 PM

Previous topic - Next topic

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.


In the 1990s, the UK made several changes to its coinage, which were echoed, though to a lesser extent, in the Republic of Ireland.

"Dáil Éireann - Volume 396 - 01 March, 1990
Decimal Currency Bill, 1990: Second Stage.
Minister for Finance (Mr. A. Reynolds) Albert Reynolds
The Government's aim is to overhaul the coinage fully over the next three to four years. The introduction of the £1 coin is but one of many changes which we will see. I am concerned that the coinage, generally, is too heavy and we will be endeavouring to reduce the weight of the coins where possible. The first priority in 1991 will be the issue of a new, lighter and round 50p. The coin will be reduced in size by about 5mm and will carry the current woodcock design.
Next it is planned to issue a new 5p and 10p on which the two existing designs, the bull and the salmon, will be reversed to face left. This will give a uniform orientation to all the motifs. Both coins will be reduced in size. The metallic composition of both coins will be altered to make them lighter.
For the 1p and 2p coins it is proposed to revert to the Metcalfe designs. The 1p will feature the Irish wolfhound from the old sixpence while the 2p will have the hare which appeared on the pre-decimal 3p.
The design of our coins is very good. The original Metcalfe designs, which were introduced back in the twenties at the foundation of the State, were excellent and our coinage was much admired around the world. I do not think the Celtic scroll designs which were introduced more recently are as attractive."

In the event, Ireland did get a pound coin, and it reduced the size of the 5p and 10p and made the bull and salmon face left, as planned.

Unfortunately, it was then decided that Ireland should commit itself to the euro, so we never saw the round 50p, or the 1p and 2p carrying animal designs.

Ireland did indeed adopt the euro, and more than one member has commented on this web site that the Irish euro designs are among the most boring in Europe.

BC Numismatics

  You had forgotten to mention that the Irish 20p.,which has the horse like on the old Irish 1/2 Crown was introduced in 1986,although very rare pattern coins dated 1985 exist.Ireland was also unique in issuing a brass 20p. coin.

Perhaps the Irish coins were changed as a way of driving the British coins out of circulation,as British coins continued in circulation,even after the proclamation of the Republic of Ireland in 1949.



Ireland used to be in the sterling area, so in the 1970s Eire kept its coins to the same format as the UK's. Irish coinage was not legal tender in the UK, but whether the UK's was accepted in Eire is something I don't know. Once Eire decoupled from sterling, some time in the 1980s, it was free to reformat its coinage, which it began to do.

The Irish 20p was very similar in size to the 2p coin (theirs and ours were the same size), so I think our UK 20p was more distinctive and unlikely to be mistaken for any other coin.

BC Numismatics

From 1928 until 1979,the Irish Pound was pegged at 1:1 with the Pound Sterling,so it is possible that British currency remained in circulation in Ireland.

Have a read here; & here; .




In the early 70s the wife and I spent a long vacation in southwest Ireland (Cork and Kerry areas). I don't remember having seen any British coins circulating.
British banknotes ("Pound sterling" notes, as opposed to the Irish "Punt" notes) were quite common, though.
Over half a century of experience as a coin collector.
Money is like body fat: If there's too much of it, it always is in the wrong places.


As long as the exchange rate was fixed at 1:1, both coinages mixed in the border areas and some were mutilated there.

I would agree with the author you quote that the animal designs were excellent. They still look modern.

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


Here are some of my notes from my visit to the National Archives:-

Republic of Ireland: Decimalisation; design of decimal coinage  1968-70    20/4123.

One illustration of prototype designs shows the 50p woodcock design with a Celtic border. Some earlier illustrations show the horse on the 50p coin. Others showed the woodcock on the 1p and the horse on the 2p.  Alternative designs showed the penny with stylised shamrocks, or shamrocks within rings or patterns. The woman who did the eventual designs from the Book of Kells [for the ½p, 1p and 2p coins] had sent them in thinking there would be a public competition.  There wasn't, but (unfortunately!) the Irish authorities were taken with the designs.

UK Decimal +

I always found the Irish designs quite pleasing.   Used to find the odd one in change occasionally.

Could someone, please, list the designs used on each denomination, both pre- and post-decimal.

To complete the list, are there similar variations in the Irish euro designs?

Ilford, Essex, near London, England.

People look for problems and complain.   Engineers find solutions but people still complain.


From my list:-

1966 Set.

¼d.   Woodcock.
½d.   Pig and piglets.
1d.   Hen and chicks.
3d.   Hare.
6d.   Irish wolfhound.
1s.   Bull.
2s.   Salmon.
2/6.  Irish hunter.

Designer: Percy Metcalfe.



1971. ½p.   Mythical bird.                        D: Gabriel Hayes.
1971. 1p.   Mythical bird.                        D: Gabriel Hayes.
1971. 2p.   Mythical bird.                        D: Gabriel Hayes.
1970. 5p.   Bull, facing right.                   D: Percy Metcalfe.
1992. 5p.   Bull, facing left.   Reduced size.    D: Percy Metcalfe.
1971. 10p.  Salmon.                               D: Percy Metcalfe.
1993. 10p.  Salmon, facing left. Reduced size.    D: Percy Metcalfe
1986. 20p.  Irish hunter.                         D: Percy Metcalfe.
1970. 50p.  Woodcock.                             D: Percy Metcalfe.
1990. £1.   Irish red deer.                       D: Thomas Ryan.
Ireland issued very few commemoratives, and none for circulation, I believe.

The Irish euros portray the harp on the national side - on all denominations. Very boring, compared to what went before.

RIP Irish Barnyard Series   :'(



After breaking from Sterling, the Irish referred to their pound as the punt.


Quote from: Ice Torch on September 25, 2009, 11:53:42 PM
That is entirely true, but referring to the punt, as they did, it became part of their usage and had the advantage of distinguishing it from the pound sterling, thus preempting any confusion.

Most (all?) predecimal denominations had the denomination spelt out in Gaelic, the 3d and 6d to me being the most interesting:

¼d - Feoirling
½d - Leat pingin
1d - Pingin
3d - Leat reul
6d - Reul
1/- - Scilling
2/- - Floirin
2/6 - Leat coroin

Now I know next to nothing about Gaelic, but it's obvious from the list that "leat" means "half", so the 3d is "half a reul".  For over 30 years I've wondered where "reul" comes from, but never made the effort to find out.  The following sites identify it with the Spanish "real", which kinda makes sense, as eight reales at that exchange rate would make 4 shillings, which is near enough for jazz, as they used to say.


Quote from: translateltd on September 26, 2009, 04:01:56 AM
it's obvious from the list that "leat" means "half", so the 3d is "half a reul".  For over 30 years I've wondered where "reul" comes from...  The following sites identify it with the Spanish "real", which kinda makes sense, as eight reales at that exchange rate would make 4 shillings

Excellent research, Martin. I'd never given much thought to the Celtic languages.

Though I do love the barnyard series and find it a wonderful set of designs, I do have a single quibble with it. The majority of the animals are reasonably realistically displayed. However, the hen and chicks on the penny look more like clockwork toys, and arguably the bull and the woodcock are rather over-stylised too. Yet still I love all the designs. It's partly down to nostalgia, as Eire was still part of the Sterling system in my childhood, and in England it was easy to get hold of their pre-decimal coins. Curiously, they all seemed to match the specifications of our UK coinage - except for their round threepence or "leat reul".


I live only a few miles from the border with the Republic and can confirm that in the 70s both currencies circulated quite freely together here.  Anyone's pocket of change would quite likely always have Irish coins as part of the mix. Apparently this was not as common further from the border though.


Even after the end of parity, you would quite often find Irish coins in circulation in the UK (even in GB) up until the resizing of the early 90s, when the 5p and 10p were reduced in size by different amounts either side of the border and the 50p wasn't touched in Ireland. But you got Irish 1p and 2p coins in the UK up to and a little beyond the introduction of the euro.