Thursday, 3 October 2013

THE SECRET LIFE OF THE PASSPORT No 2

Once again the Foreign Office fail their French exam.
'Couleur de cheveux' should read, 'couleur des cheveux'.
The error lay undetected for thirteen years.
Not another mistake in the
British passport?  On 5th September 1934, Mr. W. C. Ryan of 106 Abel Smith Street, Wellington, New Zealand wrote to the Foreign Office in London:

"May I be allowed with great respect to advise you that I recently saw a Foreign Office passport dated in the year 1926 and there is a misprint on page 2. Should  not the words, 'couleur de cheveux' be amended to, 'couleur des cheveux'? If this has not since been corrected, I feel that it should be brought under notice."
Yours faithfully,
 W.C. Ryan.

This error had been introduced when the printers De La Rue had taken over the printing of the British passport from Harrisons in 1921 and it had been perpetrated in every subsequent version of the document until 1934. The Foreign Office did not express much concern and even less regret that the fault had lain undetected for thirteen years and then had been pointed out to them by a member of the public rather than from someone within their own department. In correcting the mistake an official observed in a handwritten note in the margin of the file, "it is curious that we have not spotted it before."



Click here to go to The British Passport Centenary

Click here to go to my Sunday Post interview on passport photographs.





The Passport - The History of Man's Most Travelled Document, by Martin Lloyd.

Read the first chapter here.


Neither Civil nor Servant - Twenty four years in the Immigration Service by Martin Lloyd.

Read the first chapter here.



Search the blog for my series of evocative posts entitled, Passport Portraits of Yesteryear.

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