The " Belleek Ireland " Mark
Subsequent to the publication of the article on page 39 of the UK Belleek Collectors’ Group Newsletter number 25/1 April 2004 concerning the small first period mark with IRELAND underneath photographic evidence has now been obtained from five UK Belleek collections together with specific items offered for sale on eBay which have this particular mark and therefore support the proposition that this mark is genuine.
The individual items carrying this mark; the majority of which are shown on the accompanying photographs, identified from the aforementioned sources are as follows, viz:-
feather vases (pair),
Diamond salts (pair)
Toy shell cream,
Harp Shamrock teacup
Armorial souvenir item < no pictures available at present >
with hand painted crest
Boxed miniature tea service
– The wishing cup
It is reasonable to assume that the mark was introduced in 1891 to meet the requirements of the McKinley Act whereby all manufactured items should carry the name of the country of origin and was used as an interim measure and/or in conjunction with the recognised second period ribbon mark. Since the mark in question is rare when compared with the standard second period mark it poses the question of why it was used. Until relatively recently the consensus of opinion favoured its use on small items where there was insufficient flat surface to accommodate the standard second period mark. However, in typical Belleek matters this theory has now been ‘blown apart’ following the appearance of the small first period mark with IRELAND underneath on standard teaware items. The Celtic spill and the wishing cup items (BAM coz they can not have been intro before 192?) offer conclusive proof that the mark was used throughout the second period and not adopted as a short term interim measure prior to the introduction of the recognised second period ribbon mark.
It is important to understand that this is not a first period Belleek mark which has had the word IRELAND added at a later date. There would be no logical reason to do this since it would obviously detract from the intrinsic value of the item. It would appear to be a composite mark used by the factory to clearly establish the country of manufacture by means of modifying an established mark prior/during the introduction of a new mark specifically designed for that purpose.
The photographic evidence now produced only represents a small sample of items from what is available in UK Belleek collections and it is reasonable to assume that further items carrying this particular mark exist in both the UK and world wide collections. Hopefully this article will provide the catalyst for collectors to examine their collections so that additional items can be recorded which will provide further evidence to support the conclusion that the mark is indeed genuine and should be included in the established list of Belleek marks without which none is genuine.
In the next issue I will recount when I first came across this particular mark some 10˝ years ago and the research undertaken on a very rare piece which carries this mark. As previously stated several members of the UK Belleek Collectors’ Group have been aware of this mark for some years, this is now the opportunity to make it known to the wider Belleek fraternity and establish its rightful place in the varied history of the Belleek Pottery.