Mr Perriman – a memory

Exhibitor : Ian Macilwain

When I was a teenager I lived in a very rural part of North East Hampshire. My father was a GP in the village. He had a patient, Mr Perriman, who was a Queen’s Messenger. His job was to take important documents from H.M. Government across the world to various capitals. On one occasion he was seen cycling home from the local railway station and questioned by a passer by “where have you come from Mr Perriman ?“ “Ulan Bator in Mongolia“ was the reply (he travelled light !)

Some Venezuela skillets, maps
Some Venezuela skillets, maps

This man began, at my father’s instigation, to bring me matchboxes from his travels. I don’t think I realised the immense privilege it was to receive these periodic packages from far corners of the world.

He was a particularly frequent traveller to Venezuela and that country is vastly overrepresented in my collection for that very reason.

Venezuela specialised in long sets : indigenous tribesmen, couples in formal dress, oil rigs, maps, and cars are sets which I have in my collection.


The packets fizzled out eventually as I got older and more preoccupied with exams and consequently less grateful. They had however really opened my eyes to unfamiliar parts of the world and contributed to a life long interest in other people’s cultures. The humble match box has a lot to account for.

Mr Perriman clearly specialised in South and Central America, Africa and certain parts of Asia. I’m sure he brought me some from Mongolia but I have been unable to locate them. The labels of central America were particularly colourful. 

A Mexican skillet plus tax band, La Perla factory
A Mexican skillet plus tax band, La Perla factory

I had always had a fascination with Mexico even to the point of writing to the La Central match factory for labels to which I never received a reply. When I did eventually visit in 1979 and again in 2005 I was not in a position to go scouting for labels.

I have photographed these in situ in the albums from EHW of Sicilian Avenue, High Holborn, London (anybody remember it ?) I made repeated trips to this tiny shop in the arcade in my teens. Click on an image in the Gallery below to enlarge it.

Unfortunately I lost touch with Mr Perriman many years ago when I moved away from Hampshire, but the boxes which he kindly brought me back from his travels opened my eyes to a world beyond Scottish Bluebell and nurtured my life-long interest in Phillumeny.

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