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Triple demand in Bethlehem; Westgate.

FRENCH stamp collectors are stuck on it - even if British philatelists, including we Welsh, are a little slow off the mark.

I refer, of course, to the Bethlehem hand stamp that attracts a festive following to the little store and tea room run by Gwilym Richards in the Carmarthenshire village with the most famous name in Christendom.

For more years than he cares to remember, he has been stamping visitors' Christmas cards with the words Bethlehem and Llythyrdy along with the date December 25.

Now he has been inundated with requests for the hand stamp from a number of French collectors, who have recognised this as a very rare triple-language mail mark.

Llythyrdy is Welsh for letter house, Bethlehem means house of bread in Arabic and the date is in English.

Mr Richards says, "I chose the word Llythyrdy deliberately because Charles II introduced letter receiving houses in 1665, long before the name was changed to "post office".

"Now the French have spotted that the hand stamp is a triple-language mail mark. I knew about it but I didn't go out of my way to do anything about it.

"I have, however, maintained this mailing tradition at Bethlehem even though the mailing facility was closed there in 1988, " he said.

Mr Richards will give a talk about his hand-stamping career at St John's Church, Clydach, near Swansea, on Tuesday at 3pm.
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 14, 2002
Words:231
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