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  • Royal Mail
    Great Britons 220.jpeg
    17 April 2013
    Royal Mail celebrates ‘Great Britons’ with launch of latest special stamp collection
  • Royal Mail today releases its ‘Great Britons’ Special Stamps
  • The set of ten 1st Class stamps celebrate individuals whose anniversaries of birth fall or outstanding achievement fall in 2013
  • The stamps celebrate a selection of distinguished individuals from the realms of sport, journalism, music, politics and the arts
  • Actor Peter Cushing, journalist and broadcaster Richard Dimbleby and football legend Bill Shankly are celebrated
  • The actress Vivian Leigh and fashion photographer Norman Parkinson are also included in the set
  • Completing the set are archaeologist and anthropologist Mary Leakey, former Prime Minister David Lloyd George, Battersea Mayor John Archer, cookery writer Elizabeth David and composer Benjamin Britten
  • The Great Britons stamps are available in Post Offices online at and by phone on 08457 641 641

Royal Mail is today issuing a set of ten 1st Class stamps celebrating some of Britain’s greatest individuals and their achievements.

Entitled ‘Great Britons’, the stamp issue celebrates individuals across sport, journalism, music, politics and the arts whose anniversaries of birth fall in 2013.

World renowned actress Vivien Leigh, famous for her leading roles in Gone with the Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire, takes centre stage alongside actor Peter Cushing, who is perhaps best known for his roles as Baron Frankenstein and Doctor Van Helsing in horror films produced by Hammer Film Productions.

From the world of sport, Scottish footballer and manager William ‘Bill’ Shankly features. Regarded as one of football’s most successful and respected managers, Shankly was manager of Liverpool from 1959 to 1974, leading them to triumph as First Division champions in 1964, 1966 and 1973, FA Cup winners in 1965 and 1974 and UEFA Cup winners in 1974.

Notable figures from the world of politics are also featured with the first and only Welsh Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, and John Archer, the first mayor of African-Caribbean descent, to head a London Metropolitan Borough Council in the collection

One of the UK’s best loved classical composers Benjamin Britten is included in the ten, with celebrated portrait and fashion photographer Norman Parkinson bolstering the arts contingent.

Richard Dimbleby, the well known journalist, broadcaster and father of David and Jonathan Dimbleby, is included within the set of 1st Class stamps, as well as celebrated cookery writer Elizabeth David, who was credited with introducing post-war Britain to ‘exotic’ Mediterranean cooking, featuring ingredients such as avocado, pasta, olive oil and red peppers.

Completing the ten is eminent archaeologist and anthropologist, Mary Leakey, who was credited with forcing scientists to re-think their long held views on human evolution thanks to her significant discoveries.

Writer and journalist Nigel Fountain has written the accompanying presentation pack, which provides an overview of the lives of the Great Britons featured on the stamps.

Andrew Hammond, Royal Mail Stamps spokesperson, said: “We are delighted to be honouring some of the UK’s most distinguished figures in history through our latest Special Stamp collection. We hope the stamps will serve as a lasting tribute to their memory and once again encourage people to remember their significant contribution to our Great British way of life.”

For further information contact:
Natasha Ayivor
Royal Mail Press Office
100 Victoria Embankment
London EC4Y 0HQ
Tel: 07436 280002


For almost 50 years, Royal Mail’s Special Stamp programme has commemorated and celebrated events and anniversaries pertinent to UK heritage and life. Today, there are an estimated 2.5 million stamp collectors and gifters in the UK and millions worldwide. Her Majesty the Queen approves all UK stamp designs before they are printed.

Stamps and stamp products are available at most Post Office branches, online at and from Royal Mail Tallents House (tel. 08457 641 641), 21 South Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh, EH12 9PB.


  1. Norman Parkinson: Born Ronald William Parkinson Smith in 1913, he was one of the world’s most celebrated portrait and fashion photographers. In the 1930s Parkinson opened a studio with business partner, Norman Kibblewhite. When the pair split, Parkinson changed his name to that of the business – Norman Parkinson
  2. Vivien Leigh: Leigh attended a convent school and on one visit, her mother took her to see a play on London’s legendary West Side. It was from this experience that she decided to become an actress (
  3. Peter Cushing: Cushing returned from Hollywood to contribute to the war effort during World War II by joining the Entertainment National Services Association (
  4. Mary Leakey: To mark the 100th anniversary of her birthday, Google created a Doodle for its home page depicting her at work on a dig (
  5. David Lloyd George: In 1944, Lloyd George was made an Earl and his official title was then Earl Lloyd George of Dwyfor (
  6. Benjamin Britten: Britten is best known for his music for the voice: choral works, songs and song cycles, and a series of operas which are said to be among the most engaging ever written (
  7. John Archer: Archer was the first person of African-Caribbean descent to hold civic office in London (
  8. Bill Shankly: When Shankly left school, he went to work at the local pit but after two years he was left unemployed (
  9. Elizabeth David: A biopic of David’s life was made by the BBC in 2006 entitled Elizabeth David: A Life in Recipes (
  10. Richard Dimbleby: In January 2013, Bill Gates delivered the 2013 Richard Dimbleby Lecture – an address set up in his honour. It has been delivered by an influential business or political figure almost every year since 1972 (

Norman Parkinson
Photographer Norman Parkinson (1913–90) captured impoverished Welsh coal miners and their families in the late 1930s, models atop New York skyscrapers in the late 1940s, movie stars in the 1950s and The Beatles in the 1960s. In 1980, Parkinson took the famous ‘Blue Trinity’ photograph of the Queen, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret, a specially commissioned portrait to mark the Queen Mother’s 80th birthday. Though he began his career in the world of society portraiture, he was greatly influenced by news photography and before long was taking his camera out of the studio, on to the streets and across the world.

Ronald William Parkinson Smith was born in Roehampton, the son of a barrister and a half-Italian mother. Educated at Westminster School in London from 1927 to 1931, he was apprenticed to a court photographer on Bond Street. Three years later he had become Norman Parkinson, a perfectionist with his own Mayfair studio. Soon after came his first magazine work, which gave him the chance to showcase the ‘action realism’ for which he became most celebrated.

Vivien Leigh
On 10 December 1938, the actress Vivien Leigh visited the set of Gone with the Wind (1939) in Hollywood to meet the film’s producer David O Selznick. Two weeks after her screen tests, she was offered the coveted role of Scarlett O’Hara. One of the greatest movie stars of the era, incandescently beautiful and a dedicated actress, Leigh received an Academy Award in 1940 for her performance as Scarlett and another in 1952 for playing Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951).

Born Vivian Mary Hartley in Darjeeling, India, in 1913, she was educated at an English convent school and completed her studies in Europe. In 1932, she enrolled at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and made her stage debut three years later. It was while filming Fire Over England (1937) that she met fellow actor Laurence Olivier, whom she would marry in 1940.

On the evening of 8 July 1967, after the announcement of Leigh’s death, the exterior lights on London’s West End theatres were turned off for an hour in her memory.

Peter Cushing
Spanning more than four decades, the diverse acting career of Peter Cushing (1913–94) included such memorable parts as Doctor Van Helsing and Baron Frankenstein in the ‘Hammer Horror’ films, Sherlock Holmes, the villain Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars (1977) – and an unforgettable Winston Smith in BBC television’s adaptation of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1954).

Peter Wilton Cushing was born in Kenley, Surrey. After leaving school, he entered his father’s profession and became a quantity surveyor’s assistant. Inspired by his actress aunt, by 1935 he had enrolled at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, making his stage debut the following year. He moved to Hollywood in 1939, taking on various minor roles, before returning to the UK in 1942 and joining ENSA, the Entertainments National Service Association, to contribute to the war effort. He met the love of his life, actress Helen Beck, the same year and they married in 1943.
Cushing became a familiar face on television during the 1950s and began his legendary association with Hammer Film Productions later that same decade.

David Lloyd George
Eloquent orator, splendid negotiator and political titan, David Lloyd George (1863–1945) is a man whose achievements still resonate in the 21st century. Before the First World War, his social reforms as Chancellor of the Exchequer, which included the introduction of state pensions and national insurance, laid down the foundations of the British welfare state. During the war, as Chancellor (1908–15), Minister of Munitions (1915–16) and Secretary of State for War (1916) Lloyd George transformed the administration of the British economy. As Prime Minister from 1916, the ‘Welsh Wizard’ was a key figure among the Allied powers and helped to lead the nation to victory in 1918.

Lloyd George was born in Manchester, the son of a schoolmaster. He was raised by his widowed mother in her native village of Llanystumdwy in Gwynedd, Wales where he attended the local school until the age of 15. Encouraged by his uncle to train as a solicitor, he duly qualified and set up a practice in Criccieth. In 1890, he became MP for Caernarfon Boroughs, a seat which he held until the year of his death, and he first joined the Cabinet following the 1906 Liberal landslide.

Elizabeth David
In 1950, amidst bomb sites and the grey shades of austere, post-war Great Britain, Elizabeth David (1913–92) cast open the doors for her fellow citizens on the “blessed lands of sun and sea and olive trees” with the publication of A Book of Mediterranean Food. It was the first volume in a series that established David as the finest English-language writer on cooking and the culture of food. French Country Cooking followed a year later, then Italian Food (1954), Summer Cooking (1955) and French Provincial Cooking (1960).

Born near Polegate in Sussex, the daughter of a Conservative MP, and baptised Elizabeth Gwynne in the House of Commons chapel, she revolutionised the way that the British shopped, prepared and conceived of food. David’s adventures during the Second World War, in France, Italy, Greece and Egypt, provided experience and inspiration for her earlier works while, later in life, she turned her attention to English food.

John Archer
It was on 10 November 1913 that John Archer (1863–1932) told his fellow Battersea councillors that history had been made, after they had endorsed him as the first mayor of African-Caribbean descent in London and the second in Britain.

Archer’s life was a catalogue of ‘firsts’. When the inaugural Pan-African Conference was held in London in 1900, Archer, a medical student at the time, was in attendance. Six years later, his first election as a councillor signalled what would be a lifelong career in local and international radical and socialist politics.

He became the first president (1918–21) of the African Progress Union and in 1919 he went as the British delegate to the seminal Pan-African Congress in Paris. Two years later, he chaired a session when the Congress met in London.

John Richard Archer was born in a poor area of Liverpool in 1863, the son of a Barbados-born ship’s steward and an Irish mother. Twenty-seven years later, John Archer and his African-Canadian wife settled in Battersea where his political career would later develop.

Benjamin Britten
The opera Peter Grimes premiered at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London in 1945. Performed in the midst of a blitzed and war-weary London, it conjured up a timeless conception of the sea, the Suffolk coast and a loss of innocence. Its composer, Benjamin Britten (1913–76), had written a masterpiece with “the struggle of the individual against the masses” at its core. Though Britten was already a respected composer at that time, as he continued to create great works his international reputation grew immeasurably.

Edward Benjamin Britten was born in Lowestoft in Suffolk, the youngest of four children. His father was a dental surgeon and his mother was a keen amateur singer and pianist. He was educated at Gresham’s School in Holt, Norfolk and at the Royal College of Music in London. In 1937 Britten met the young tenor Peter Pears, who became both his personal and professional partner. Together they took their music to the world and, in founding the Aldeburgh Festival in 1948, they gave it an illustrious home on the Suffolk coast.

Mary Leakey
The voyages of discovery made by Mary Leakey (1913–96) could start with a scrap of bone, an interesting-looking fossil fragment, a prehistoric stone tool or rock art. For more than half a century, the archaeologist and palaeoanthropologist played a key role in exploring the origins of humanity, which resulted in many significant finds, such as the hominid skull Australopithecus boisei and the Laetoli footprints in Tanzania.

Mary Douglas Nicol was born in London, the only child of landscape artist Erskine Nicol. During childhood, archaeological digs and visits to cave sites in France first sparked Mary’s interest in palaeolithic archaeology. After being expelled from two schools, she began informally attending lectures in geology at University College London and in archaeology at the London Museum. By the age of 17 she had begun drawing finds uncovered at dig sites in Devon, then, in 1933, she met the archaeologist and naturalist Louis Leakey and was invited to illustrate one of his books. Three years later they were married and Mary went on to establish an outstanding reputation in the study of human origins.

Bill Shankly
There are the statistics – and there is the legend. As manager of Liverpool FC from 1959 to 1974, Bill Shankly (1913–81) led the club to its first FA Cup final victory in 1965, as well as in 1974, the year of his retirement. During an immensely successful period in Liverpool FC’s history, there were also League Championship wins in 1964, 1966 and 1973. As a player from 1932 to 1949, Shankly won an FA Cup medal with Preston North End in 1938 and represented Scotland 12 times. Before his arrival on Merseyside in 1959 he managed Carlisle United, Grimsby Town, Workington and Huddersfield Town.

The triumphs he enjoyed at Liverpool were impressive, but what made Shankly a towering figure in the ‘beautiful game’ and in British society was a total dedication to the sport and to his team, which embodied the spirit of his adopted city. Born the ninth of ten children of a working-class family in Glenbuck, Ayrshire, Bill Shankly’s socialist politics reflected his upbringing and practical philosophy. True success came through collective effort, he wrote, “with everyone working for each other, everyone helping each other, and everyone having a share of the rewards at the end of the day”.

Richard Dimbleby
Richard Dimbleby (1913–65) joined the BBC as its first radio reporter and later its first war correspondent. He became central to wartime radio journalism, flying on many bombing raids over Germany. In April 1945, he witnessed at first hand the British liberation of the Nazi concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen, describing the day as “the most horrible of my life”.

In the post-war years, Dimbleby’s commentary on radio and then on television shaped people’s perceptions of the news. He reported on the coronation of Elizabeth II (1953), the Suez War and the Hungarian Revolution (1956), the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962) and the funerals of President Kennedy (1963) and Sir Winston Churchill (1965). He also presented the BBC current affairs programme Panorama from 1955 to 1965.

Frederick Richard Dimbleby was born in Richmond, Surrey, the son of a journalist and local newspaper owner, and was educated at Mill Hill School in London. He joined the BBC after a spell in print journalism and soon became the voice of a nation.