Jennifer Toombs


Graphic Artist, stamp designer and President of the PISG UK & PNI from 1987-2018

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Jennifer working at home in Suffolk

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Saxmundham village sign designed by Jennifer Toombs.
Photo courtesy of George J. Moore

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Jennifer, photographed by the 'Watford Post' in 1965, the year she became a freelance designer, with her adopted design for the Crown Agents omnibus series of special Winston Churchill stamp issues.

She visited Pitcairn Island in December 1966, by invitation of the authorities on Fiji, to work on artwork for future stamp designs. Jennifer stayed with Elwyn Christian (Island dentist), and his wife Evelyn (the Nurse). She described the Island Magistrate at the time, Pervis Young, as her mentor and guide during her visit
I never considered having to write this piece, and I guess the reason is that Jennifer never seemed old, and most certainly not in her late 70s. It will be sad now without her friendly greetings at meetings, and at our annual committee meeting. She was not only our President from the very first meeting of the PISG in the UK, but also a friend. She embraced new technology, and continued to learn how to use Photoshop on her Apple computer. We often compared notes, and discussed future software developments. I will miss our conversations, and find it very hard to believe that she has gone.

The first meeting of the Pitcairn Islands Study Group held in the UK took place in November 1987. Jennifer brought a display of Pitcairn handicrafts and when the decision was made to form a UK Regional Chapter of the PISG, Jennifer was unanimously elected as President of the new group. She has held that position continuously and will be a very hard act to follow.

During her career, Jennifer designed stamps, and their associated envelopes, for over 50 countries.

I must thank Graham Ford for the following interesting information, "travelling the roads of Suffolk it is quite possible you will notice the picturesque village/town signs, which are a feature of the East Anglian countryside. Without realising you may well drive past a sign that Jennifer designed. Most notable are those at Snape and Saxmundham, both close to Jennifer's home. Just another example of the various legacies she has left to future generations."

In our first edition in January 1991, Jennifer wrote, "As current President of the PISG-UK, I would like to extend a warm welcome to all readers of our first Newsletter. Philatelic societies are like magical catalysts, drawing people of mutual interests together from all walks of life and from all corners of the Earth, and the PISG is no exception. Our mutual interest Pitcairn Island has drawn us like moths to a candle-flame, and works its magic in a unique way.

"I personally fell under Pitcairn’s spell in 1966 when I made a visit for research purposes. Although my stay was brief – only ten days – I made many friends, and the memories of this beautiful island have never left me: they are rekindled whenever I am in contact with the Islanders and PISG-ers alike."

One other thing I should mention here is something rather amazing. How many stamp designers have philatelists collecting their work rather than countries? The late Eric Waldock even went so far as to compile a catalogue for Jennifer's work, and these collections have been classified as 'Toombsiana'.

Her skill as a miniature artist will be loved and admired as long as there are philatelists. And she will be immensely missed by the Pitcairn and Norfolk Islands Society.

The Society did not learn of her death in time to attend the funeral, but I understand that the church was packed out and was a celebration of her life and skills as an artist.

David Ransom

Originally published in edition 57 (July 2018) of The Bounty
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Over the years, Jennifer allowed me to reproduce some of her wonderful designs and preliminary artwork in our magazine. On this watercolour from 1972, you can see the names of many well known Islanders written in pencil in the margin. If you move your cursor over the image it will turn into a magnifying glass