Bernera Islands

From a fellow motorcycle philatelist I saw a really used envelope franked with the stamps of Bernera. Normally I am rather reserved to declare this type of stamps official, but when I see a used envelope it is much easier to accept them as stamps.

Lets first look where this island is located. After a lot of searching it appeared to belong to the Isle of Lewis, one of the Outer Hebrides, lying to the north-west of Scotland. This region is famous to us philatelists because of its numerous doubtful postal administrations (Pabay, Islay, St. Kilda, Easdale and so on). At the bottom of the Hebrides there is a small island with almost the same name, Berneray, but "our" island , Great Bernera (in Gaidhlig called Bearnaraigh), lies more to the north. In Loch Roag next to the place Garanahyne we finally find this island, that only counts a few square kilometres.
The inhabitants live from lobster catching. The most famous lobster catcher is Murdo Morrison, who let built a bank in the bay, which lies just below the water level during high tide. During low tide lobsters stayed lying on this bank, and he raked them together to cook and sell them.

Detail kaart Great Bernera   Overzichtskaart Groot BritanniŽ

Although there are only a few roads on the island, and thus there is not much possibility for motorcycling, they have issued these stamps. In the meantime we know that the rights to issue stamps on behalf of this type of islands can just be bought, and this makes them artefacts.

The stamps that are important for us have been issued in 1982. I don't know the exact date. There are 2 stamps of 40 and 60 pence, issued as a block, and 2 large non-perforated stamps of 1 and 2 pounds. The block with the lowe valu stamps can be found both perforated and non-perforated.

Blokje Bernera, Suzuki racer + Honda 125cc

The stamp of 40 pence shows a Suzuki road racing motorcycle with rider. The number on the fairing suggests that the rider in the previous year has ended at that position in the World Championship. The yellow background indicates a 500 cc machine. In the years short before the issue of this stamp (1982) Suzuki scored 3rd places in the WC-list in '76, '77, '79 and '80. In 1979 Barry Sheen ended as 3rd on Suzuki, but he always had the number 7 on his fairing. In 1980 it was Marco Lucchinelli, but he rode, just like Uncini, fully in blue. In '76 and '77 it was Pat Hennen who claimed the number 3, and he rode in mainly red. Hennen was the first American to win a GP motorcycle race. This was on the circuit of Imatra, in the 500 cc Grand Prix of Finland in 1976.
The second stamp, with a value of 60 pence, shows according to the caption a Honda 125 cc. After a good look at the drawing I think that this is a 2-stroke model, partly due to the fact that it does not have a front frame tube.
However, as far as I know Honda has never built such a 125 cc street model. The model that comes most close is the MB100, which was built in 1979.

Honda MB100

On the stamp of 1 pound we find the brand Hobart. Hobart was a Coventry based manufacturer of engine blocks, frames and other parts that were mainly supplied to other motorcycle manufacturers. From 1901 to 1923 they assembled these parts to complete motorcycles under their own name. The McKenzie motorcycles were built in the same factory. The model on the stamp is the 2 3/4 horse power side valve machine from 1904.

Zegel bernera, Hobart

The stamp of 2 pounds wears the image of the 250 cc Ossa trial motorcycle from Spain. The drawing in fact is not complete, because a trial motor must be suitable to ride on the public road, and must thus be equipped with, amongst others, (brake) lights and license plate. Perhaps the motorcycle is still to new for a license, but without lights it is a cross motorcycle according to the FIM regulations.

Zegel Bernera, Ossa Trialmotor

I think this is enough for now about the stamps from Bernera. If you do have some complementary information or remarks, please let me know.

Hans de Kloet.
(Translation: Paul Essens)


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