Malaysia Stamp & Philately Reference Guide


Provisionals (Bisected, Surcharged & Initialed)

+ Issue Date     : 02/08/1897
+ Classification : Postage Stamp
+ Printer        : De La Rue & Co, Limited
+ Watermark      : Crown CA
+ Perforations   : 14
+ Separations    : Normal Perforations
+ Gum Type       : Gum
+ Shape          : Rectangular
+ Orientation    : Horizontal

(By Fred. J. Meville)

Stamp Collecting

IN the stamp catalogues under Pahang there is a little group of bisected stamps varieties which are the only recognised provisional of their class among the British Malayan countries.

Although issued nearly forty years ago, the circumstances of their issue must be within the memory of many in the East. Indeed their creator, although long since retired to England, is still living.

Another and higher official who was in authority at the time and who approved the temporary expedient of bisecting the stamps after the event is also resident in England and recounted some interesting details when, after a chance meeting, he discovered I was interested in stamps.

Philatelists, however, are cautious in accepting reminiscences as precise records, and lately Dr. F. E. Wood, late Senior Medical Officer, Perak, and a very able and painstaking philatelist, has been investigating the facts.

He has been able to examine and compare many copies of the stamps, and in a recent article in the "Philatelic Journal of Great Britian" has presented his findings, some of which I have summarised below for specialists out in Malaya.

Mr. J. F. Owen

IN 1897 Mr. J. F. Owen, well remembered in Malaya, and for some years in charge of Malayan Information Bureau in London, was District Officer and Treasurer at Kuala Lipis. It was one of his duties to maintain a stock of postage stamps for use at the local post office. In the ordinary course he indented for his supplies on the main State Treasury at Pekan, 200 miles away, down the Pahang RIver.

The particular indent, which was responsible for the provisionals, was in all probability sent off at the end of July. It was mislaid under a pile of papers in the Treasury at Pekan, and several days passed before it was dealt with. In the meanwhile Kuala Lipis ran out of 2 cents stamps.

The District Treasurer has a fair stock of 5 cents stamps, and decided to utilise these as a temporary expedient. To avoid complicating the accounts he decided to bisect some 5 cents and surcharge the halves 3 cents and 2 cents respectively. This was carried on until the delayed supply turned up from Pekan, a matter of two or three days only.

Method Adopted

AT first he cut the stamps horizontally, surcharging in manuscript the top halves 3 and the lower halves 2, adding his initials J. F. O. and cancelling the original figure 5. After having done a few in this manner he decided they would be better divided diagonally.

Mr. J. F. Owen initialled all the provisional stamps, and wrote most of the surcharged figures. It appears however, that in some cases his clerk, named Bloom, did some of the figures, and these can be distinguished by a peculiar little extra stroke at the top of the 2 and the 3. The clerk's figures also are usually followed by a C with a stroke through it.

The surcharging and initialling was generally done in red ink but copies have turned up with a blackish ink surcharge, due to Mr. Owen dipping his pen accidentally into the wrong ink-pot.

The provisionals are now catalogued in six varieties, which may be taken as eight if admit the stamps bisected vertically instead of diagonally. The number may still be increased if you separate those figured by the clerk from those figured by Mr. Owen. But probably no one in modern times has seen enough of them to find all possible variations.

780 Issued

I REMEMBER Lady Egerton had a fine lot of these provisionals, including a large block of them used on one letter. Lady Egerton recorded that there were 780 of them surcharged and I take her statement, which I published in "The Postage Stamps" in 1916 to mean that 780 5 cent. stamps were bisected, making twice that number of bisected provisionals.

The diagonally cut stamps with red surcharge are the most frequently encountered, and although Gibbons prices them higher unused than used, I consider there are more unused in collections that used. This is not the case with the black surcharges, or the horizontally bisected stamps.

There remains points in the history of these provisionals that may some day cleared up. The dates of use are not well established. If issued on two or three days only in August, 1897, the existence of copies postmarked January, 1897, requires some explanation.

The exact quantities issued on those two or three day, and the method of disposing of the unused balance would be of great interest: Were any of these provisionals made after the replenishment of the stock of 2 cent stamps at Kuala Lipis?

The Straits Times,
1 November 1936
Page 7


John Fortescue Owen

OWEN, John Fortescue. (KUALA LIPIS) Acting District Officer; born 28 July 1869. Entered Federated Malay States Civil Service as Junior Officer, Pahang, 1889 [age 20].

British Resident in Brunei 1908 – 1909.

John Fortescue OWEN was born 28 July 1869 - Marks Tey, Essex, England and died 11 September 1942 - Knaresborough Place, Kensington, London SW5. He was the eldest son of Reverend Donald Millman Owen (Born abt 1831 - Tiverton, Devon, England; died 16 July 1904 - Tiverton, Devon, England ) & Amy Ellen Fortescue (Born 1846 - East Allington, Devon, England; died 04 September 1915 - Newton Ferrers, Devon, England).

John Fortescue Owen died 11 September 1942 at 7 Knaresborough Place, London SW5. (England & Wales National Probate Calendar, 1858-1966).

Extract from London Gazette, 2 October 1942, Page 4303


Pursuant to the Trustee Act, 1925.

NOTICE is hereby given that all persons having any claim against the estate of John Fortescue Owen late of 13 Addison Crescent London W.14, and formerly of 87 Victoria Street London S.W.1, who died on the 11th day of September 1942 are hereby required to send particulars thereof in writing to the Executor and Trustee Department, Lloyds Bank Limited, 5 Albemarle Street, London W.1, the executor of the Will of the said John Fortescue Owen or to the undersigned, the Solicitor to the executor, on or before the expiration of two calendar months from the date of the publication in which this notice appears, after which date the executor will proceed to distribute the said estate, having regard only to the claims then notified. - Dated this 1st day of October 1942.

ERNEST A. KITE, 38, Victoria Street, Westminster, S.W.1, Solicitor for the said (040) Executor.