How a secret stamp collection with fascinating history has made its way to Sheffield

When teacher Alison Yeardley started a treasure project with her primary school class little did she know that some real life riches were about to fall into her lap.

Wednesday, 24th July 2019, 2:25 pm
Some of the rare letters discovered by Alison Yeardley

Alison, who is from Stannington but now teaches at the British International School of Boston in America, discovered the real life treasure after a parent responded to her school newsletter appeal to find stamps to donate to St Luke’s Hospice back in Sheffield.

Alison, who has been living in America for 13 years, couldn’t believe her luck when Bob Hurley arrived at the school with a suitcase full of stamps and letters.

Rather than run of the mill first and second class stamps Alison was shocked to discover the suitcase was packed with envelopes from around the world, including finds from the 1930s and 1940s and letters from American servicemen serving overseas during the war.

Bob Hurley donated a rare stamp and letter collection

One of the best finds for Alison, who comes home to visit friends and family in Sheffield three times a year, was a letter posted on Fitzwilliam Street, Sheffield in 1937.

Speaking about the discovery Alison, aged 42, said: “ Each year when I come home I bring stamps to donate but when Bob brought in two boxes of stamps and a suitcase filled with envelopes from all over the world that belonged to his great aunt Anita Malugani I couldn’t believe it.

“A lot of the letters were addressed to the American Exporter, an old trade magazine in New York. There were letters from American servicemen including one that had a line in about him crossing over enemy lines.

“We were doing a project about treasure and had just been presented with some real life treasure that we could pick up and study.

The stamps being handed over to St Luke's Hospice

“The collection has lead to some amazing teaching and learning and I’m hopeful that there will also be some interesting stamps that might benefit St. Luke’s.”

Students at Alison’s school were equally as excited and enjoyed doing a range of projects around the find including artwork, geography projects mapping the location of the stamps and letters and a special assembly attended by Bob.

“It is such an inspiring story and I think Bob was excited that we all got so excited about it and were able to do something meaningful with it. His family had thought about writing a book about them or having them valued but they had been sitting in the loft for years and I think he got more out of giving them to us and being able to inspire the next generation.”

Some of the letters and stamps will remain at the school for future projects, others were donated to the Boston museum’s stamp collection to go on display and Alison is hoping others will make a difference to the charity.

Some of the rare letters discovered by Alison Yeardley

She said: “My mum's partner Alan told us to collect stamps for St Luke’s since his second wife had died at the hospice, he said at that time it gave him something to do when she died and that really made an impact on me and I wanted to help.

“I have other friends who have been helped by the hospice, I think everyone knows someone who has been helped by staff there.

“I feel so connected to Sheffield and wanted to give something back. For me St Luke’s represents Sheffield and the stamps might not make them millions but hopefully they will provide some help.

“We all have a link to St. Luke’s in this city and it excites me that the hospice has inspired such an adventure for me and my class.”

The stamps that Alison Yeardley is donating to St Luke's Hospice

Alison has now dropped the stamps off at the hospice with the hope their fascinating story will make them a worthwhile donation.

Alison felt particularly connected to the former owner of the collection, Anita Malugani, as she had also travelled all over the world. Alison has done plenty of globe hopping including 37 states in America – she is hoping to tick off all 50.

“It felt like she was my spirit animal. It was amazing", added Alison.

“I love to travel and visiting all 50 American states is definitely on my bucket list.

“I feel so lucky to work in America but do love coming back to Sheffield. I work very hard but have an amazing life, I am so lucky that I get to travel, sometimes I have to pinch myself.”