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Legal Tender Notes, Series A
'Lady Lavery' Notes

Currency Commission Ireland, Central Bank of Ireland, 1928 - 1977

Lavery war code 10 Pound noteView Irish banknote images

Page under active revision, last update 21.03.23

First Series of Irish Legal Tender Notes

Fourteen Types by Signature and Design. Seven Denominations

In the 1920s a Banking Commission had been set up to consider the state of Irish currency. As a result of its final report recommendations, the Currency Act, 1927 [2] provided for the establishment of the Currency Commission Ireland and empowered it to issue, control and manage a new Irish currency, the Saorstat Pound, later termed the A Series Legal Tender Notes. Six of the nine Joint Stock commercial banks operating on the island of Ireland had the right to issue notes at the time and it was provided the currency notes in the country.

The new note issue was to ultimately replace the banknotes of the commercial Irish joint stock banks then in circulation throughout the country.

in parallel with the issue of the Legal Tender Notes in 1928, it was decided to create a separate issue of Consolidated Bank Notes (colloquially referred to as the Ploughman series) which would enter circulation on 6 May 1929 to facilitate the withdrawal of the existing banknotes of the joint stock banks which circulated throughout Ireland.

At the time of the creation of the Consolidated Bank Note Issue, the existing note issues of the commercial banks were also split between the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland. This splitting of the note issues is detailed on the page covering the Partition of Irish Currencies.

For stability, the Irish currency was linked to and exchangeable at par with the British Pound Sterling. The Irish Pound was divided into 20 shillings, and issued in seven denominations, 10 Shillings, £1, £5, £10, £20, £50, and £100.

The Irish Legal Tender Notes used a largely unchanged design from their creation in 1928 up to 1977. There are fourteen collectible Types, each represented by a change in signatory or an alteration in the design, or both.

Two major variations exist in the Issuing Authority title, the first being notes issued under the Currency Commission, 1928-1942 (Types 1-4); and the second being notes issued under the Central Bank of Ireland, 1943-1977 (Types 5-14).

Another major variation in design was the incorporation of a Special Identification Marking (SIM) 'War Code' into the design of the five lower denominations, up to £20, of banknotes produced during the Emergency period of World War 2. Banknotes bearing the SIM war code were issued under both Issuing Authorities, Type 4 (1940-1942), and Type 5 (1940-1942).

Irish Legal Tender Notes: Linked Picture Pages

Currency Commission Ireland Specimen notes.
Central Bank of Ireland 1943 War Code Specimen notes.
Central Bank of Ireland Lavery Specimen notes - Post war notes Face and Reverse.
View by Type - Fourteen Types of Legal Tender Notes by signature and design variation.
View by Denomination - An example of each denomination for every Type.
View by Date - An image of every date for which an example has been seen of each denomination.

Irish Ten Shilling Notes 1928

The introduction of the ‘Lady Lavery’ Irish Legal Tender Note series in 1928 brought back a fractional denomination to Irish currency with the introduction of a ten shilling note.

Fractional denominations such as those denominated in shillings had been prohibited by the Bankers (Ireland) Act, 1845 [3], leaving One Pound as the lowest permissible denomination in circulation.

Prior to the 1845 Act, various fractional notes denominated in shillings, including 30 Shillings were issued by the Irish private banks up to circa 1836, and Thirty Shilling notes were issued by the Irish joint stock banks up to 1844. Interestingly, it appears that there were no Irish Ten Shilling notes issued by any bank.

Why a Ten Shilling Note Denomination?

English Treasury Ten Shilling notes, issued to replace half sovereigns in circulation from 1914, would also have circulated in Ireland prior to the introduction of the Lavery Notes on 10 September 1928.

It may be that 10 shillings was found to be a useful denomination and that it was used in the Legal Tender Note series for that reason, and would have reduced the amount needed of the new Irish Coinage which was also introduced in 1928.

Additionally, the 10 Shilling denomination was in widespread use in other jurisdictions which used the Pound as a unit of currency.

Further research remains to be done on the background of the decision to include a Ten Shilling note as the lowest denomination of the new Legal Tender Note series.

Low Numbers of Irish Ten Shilling Notes

The very first Irish Lavery 10 Shilling note, number A/01 000001 was retained. It is now in the National Museum of Ireland.

Currency Commission Irish Free State 10 Shillings 10 September 1928

Examples of several denominations were retained by members of the Currency Commission, including some 10 Shilling notes with numbers below 000010.

Examples of Lavery low number One pound notes and Five pound notes have also survived. All known low numbers of the first issue Legal Tender Notes dated 10.9.28 are listed on the Irish Number 000001 Banknotes section, which also lists known early low numbered notes.

Currency Commission Irish Free State 5 Pound note 1928

Dates of Issue on Irish Legal Tender Notes

There are 231 dates for the Irish Ten Shilling note, from 10.9.28 to 6.6.68, and 257 dates for the Irish One Pound note, the last date being 30.9.76. These two denominations made up the bulk of Currency Commission Legal Tender Notes in circulation in Ireland.

Designs of Lady Lavery Notes

The design of the A Series Legal Tender Notes were intended to have a strongly Celtic flavour, and to avoid any political symbolism. The Currency Commission had specified that an archetypal Irish Cailin (Girl) should form the central theme of the design of the notes.

She was, as Kathleen Ni Houlihan, to symbolise the Irish State, a type of symbol often used in the past. The banknotes were designed by Mr. John Harrison, the Chief Portrait Engraver of Waterlow and Sons Ltd, London, who were to print the notes.

A few years before this, Harrison had engraved a series of bookplates for Sir John Lavery, RA. One of these was a portrait by Lavery of his wife, Hazel, Lady Lavery. Harrison adapted this portrait for use on the banknotes. Lady Lavery is depicted in Irish national costume resting her arm on a Cláirseach (Irish Harp). Behind her in the background are lakes and mountains, typical of Ireland.

The full portrait is used on the £10, £20, £50, and £100 denominations, with a head and shoulders cut-off on the lower denominations.

Thus, the notes are colloquially referred to as the Lady Lavery series.

Portrait of Lady Lavery as Kathleen Ni Houlihan, 1928, by Sir John Lavery

Above is the Portrait of Lady Lavery as Kathleen Ni Houlihan, 1928, by Sir John Lavery (1856-1941), Oil on canvas 75.5 x 62.5 cm. The painting is on loan from the Central Bank of Ireland to the National Gallery in Dublin, and is on public display there.

The A Series note design circulated from 1928 to 1982, when it was replaced be the B Series progressively from 1976 to 1982. A design was developed for the B Series £100 note which was not proceeded with, and the A Series £100 note remained in use until it was replaced by a new design C Series £100 note in 1995.

Major Design Variations in the Lady Lavery Series

Lady Lavery Notes: Reverse designs

For the reverse of the Legal Tender Notes, Harrison used designs based on a selection from a series of fourteen stone sculptured masks representing the Atlantic Ocean and thirteen rivers of Ireland. The River Masks were sculpted in the eighteenth century by Edward Smith and adorn the facade of the Custom House, Dublin, one of Ireland’s most attractive buildings. The Custom House itself is the central feature on the reverse of the Consolidated £1 Ploughman note.

For the first four denominations, Ten Shillings through to Ten Pounds, the smile on the faces of the River Gods broadens with ascending value. This may or may not be intentional. From the Twenty Pound note upwards however, the faces maintain a more serious disposition.

The following River Masks were selected for the reverse of the banknotes [2. Moynihan 1975, p. 127]
10 Shillings:
River Blackwater, wearing a headdress of a basket of apples on a carpet of fish.
£1: River Lee.
£5: River Lagan.
£10: River Bann, wearing a linen turban and river pearls.
£20: River Boyne. This one is interesting in that while the original mask on the Custom House appears with the date 1690 on its turban, commemorative of the Battle of the Boyne, this date is omitted on the banknote version.
£50: River Shannon.
£100: River Erne, displaying its eel fisheries on its headdress.

Legal Tender Notes A Series Lavery banknotes: Dimensions in millimetres

Dimensions are from actual measurement of notes, dated 10.9.28. Note: the dimensions tended to vary by several millimetres, depending on the cut. On some earlier notes, the cut has been seen quite off-square.

10 shilling Note, 138 x 78 mm;
£1 Note, 151 x 84 mm; £5 Note, 165 x 92 mm;

£10 Note, 191 x 108 mm; £20 Note, 203 x 114 mm;

£50 Note, 203 x 114 mm; £100 Note, 203 x 114 mm.

Legal Tender Notes: Watermarks

A Series banknotes were printed on watermarked paper. The watermark consisted of the Head of Eirin on the bottom right of each note on all denominations. Additionally, on Ten Shilling, £1, and £5 notes the denomination of the note is in the centre with the letters LTN above it. In the centre of £10 notes is the denomination with the letters LTN on either side of it, and on £20, £50, and £100 notes the letters LTN are in the centre. This is illustrated below on a Ten Shilling note.

Watermark on Lavery Ten Shilling note

The watermarks can be seen on this illustration of a Lavery Ten Shilling note, the letters 'LTN' above '10/-' and the Head of Eirin on the right

Watermark mesh for Lavery One Pound note

A watermark mesh for a Lavery One Pound note

Ireland 10 Pounds LaveryIreland 5 Pounds LaveryIreland One Pound LaveryIreland 10 Shillings
Ireland 20 Pounds LaveryIreland 50 Pounds LaveryIreland 100 Pounds Lavery

General references

1. Moynihan, Dr M. 'Currency and Central Banking in Ireland 1922–1960', Gill & Macmillan and The Central Bank of Ireland, 1975.
2. Currency Act (1927).
Bankers (Ireland) Act 1845. <> [Last accessed 27.11.21].


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