Complete set of five Lihou stamps from 1967, featuring the previous 1966 issue overprinted to mark the March 1967 SS Torrey Canyon oil tanker disaster. The tanker became grounded off the coast of Cornwall, and the resulting oil spill affected beaches in Cornwall, Guernsey and France.
M/M / Mounted Mint / MH / Mint Hinged.
Part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, Lihou is a small island, just 15.6 hectares in size, that is rich in marine and birdlife and accessed by a tidal causeway off the west coast of Guernsey itself.
Lihou has been owned by the States of Guernsey since 1995, who now manage the island and guarantee access to Guernsey residents and visitors. Lihou House, the only building on the island in active use, is managed by Lihou Charitable Trust as accommodation for school, youth and other groups.
Compared to other Channel Islands, such as Herm or Jethou, Lihou’s stamp-issuing history was relatively short. During the tenancy of Lt Col Patrick Wootton, a set of five stamps was issued on 18 July 1966 as a means of raising funds for the Lihou Youth Project, a Christian project intended to “encourage young men and women to take a real interest in country pursuits and scientific activities”. First day covers bearing this issue with a special Lihou postmark do exist, but the stamps are not believed to have served any local postal function.
Islands within the Bailiwick were no longer permitted to produce their own local stamps once Guernsey gained its postal independence on 1 October 1969, an occasion that Lihou marked with a “Big Brother takes over!” last-day cover on 30 September.
Hence, the 1966 issue appears to comprise the only official Lihou stamps, though examples – seemingly authorised by the island proprietor – do exist with overprints to mark the 1967 SS Torrey Canyon oil spill disaster. Additionally, Lihou stamps can be found with values overprinted in decimal currency, for use during the 1971 UK postal strike.
Lihou stamps bearing overprints for much more recent events – such as the 2010 engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton – are presumably entirely unofficial. Similarly, labels inscribed Lihou that date from 2012 and after also appear to be unofficial fantasy issues.