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Valira Torrent:   Contents | Subject index


Perforation image from Serif Art Gallery. © Serif Inc, 1996

Valira Torrent - bulletin of the Andorran Philatelic Study Circle. Issue 5, PP7-8 (Mar 1977).

Copyright notice

The First Andorran Postmaster

By Jean Bacquer

With reference to the pre-philatelic period in Andorra, and with the help and dedication of Andorran friends, we have conducted a retrospective, on the spot, inquiry into the life of Tomas Rossell y Moles who was, at the end of the last century, the first Post Master in Andorra.

It has not been an easy task since this family has disappeared from Andorra. We have been told he had two sons, both of which are still living. The first one, Carlos Rossell is believed to live in Perpignan and the second, Manuel Rossell, the owner of the house where his father lived is not in Andorra any longer and could not be contacted. However, it was his daughter "Pepeta" (Josephine) who carried on her father's activities, looking after the postal agency and delivering the mail. Unfortunately she died several years ago. We have, however, by questioning neighbours who knew well Tomas Rossell and his daughter, been able to gather some information on their postal activities.

The Rossell y Moles family lived at Carrer Major in the Puig district at Andorra la Vieja in a little two storey house, the front of which is now painted yellow, situated immediately on the left of the Calones Hotel. On the ground floor, in a half basement, there is a barbers shop. The two rooms where Tomas Rossell y Moles (nicknamed "Tomasset" by the Andorrans who knew him well) carried out his postal activities are situated on the mezzanine floor. On the left of the building a few steps of an outside stone staircase remain. I have been told that in those days this staircase was situated at the front, but it had to be moved to the side to widen the way into the Carrer Major, it being very narrow at that point. That three step staircase led to the Post Office door which had a mail box for Spain and France and these were used when the office was closed.

Tomas Rossell y Moles, as well as being a Post Master, was also a cobbler and worked in the ground floor room. His daughter Pepeta was his help but she was mainly a dress maker. He also had another daughter, Adele who became a nun; another two sons - Remi and Candido - the latter a school teacher in the French school, and he was deported to Buchenwald for Resistance activities. These members of his family are now dead.

In those days there were only 110 families in Andorra la Vieja and very little mail. It's pointed out to me that there was an average of ten letters and three newspapers per day, including delivery and collection. Tomas Rossell y Moles postal activity was therefore very limited and it is certain that the post for him could only be an "extra". In his postal activities he was seconded by a certain number of assistants in charge of the other parishes of Andorra. At Encamp, Manuel Baro, also a cobbler, looked after the post and every day would bring and pick up the parish mail. The mail from Ordino and La Massana was the concern of Mr. Piquemal, a native of Ordino. In the Canillo and Soldeu districts Etienne Villa - Mas, who died in 1934 was in charge of the mail. He started his trade when he was ten years old, succeeding his father Etienne Villa - Bonfils. It was that same post that, every alternate week, took to Soldeu the post for France. In the telegraphic agency of that village, leather mail bags containing the mail were exchanged for those brought on foot from Porté (Pyrenees Orientales).

An amusing anecdote is told about Tomas RosseIl y Moles. He, whose left arm had been amputated and who had worked hard to raise his large family, had started to drink. Perhaps also the drink offered by his customers did not help either. During a period when the Ordino postman, Piquemal, was unavailable, he himself, for a few months, carried the mail from the parishes of the North Valira on a mule abundantly harnessed and decorated with red pompoms, which was carrying its master instead of the heavy mail. One day the people from La Massana saw the mule coming in on its own carrying the post bag. Thinking that an accident must have happened in the Saint Antoine pass, on the narrow, difficult and slippery path which was at that time the only possible way, they set out to find him........ They finally found him, lying on the side of the path, snoring, his breath smelling strongly of wine. After receiving their mail, they carried also the postmaster!

The Post Office of Tomas Rossell was duly given by France, circa 1881, the handstamp "Andorre - Val d'Andorre". This postmark for administrative use could not have been used for cancellation of the mail from Andorra la Vieja because the mail had to be cancelled at its departing point, either at Porté (French side) or at Seo de Urgel (Spanish side). This handstamp has not been found and nobody could tell me what had happened to it, but it is known to have cancelled some letters and French or Spanish stamps in use at that time.

The above notes relate how this family entered Andorran postal history. We have dedicated to him this short retrospective investigation, and we sincerely hope that one day you may find, and keep, in your collection the receiver postmark which was used by the first Andorran Post Master.

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