Old Lags and Postal Bags

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It’s strange how calling things by different names can change the way you think of them. Take postal bags, for example. Call them that and all that comes to my mind is the range of practical packaging products in our warehouse (of which more later). But call them mail bags and I think of instead of rows of prisoners sewing old-fashioned canvas sacks, mostly in black-and-white movies.

Prison labour in the UK has taken many forms over the years, from pointless punitive tasks like working the treadmill or the crank machine, thankfully long since abandoned, to the sort of things they used to do in Porridge, such as working on the farm or in the kitchen. But the usual point of reference for many of us is still the sewing of mail bags.


Mail bags and biblical allusions

There is a story that when the founder of the Financial Times, Horatio Bottomley, was sentenced to seven years hard labour for fraud, in 1921, one of his allotted tasks was the sewing of mailbags. One day, while he was engaged in this pursuit, the prison chaplain came calling. “Sewing, Bottomley?” he enquired (although one would imagine that the large needle trailing thread that the jailed publisher was presumably clutching would have made it reasonably obvious). “No,” replied Bottomley, “reaping.”

It’s not easy to discover exactly when the practice ended, but I can tell you that Mark Carlisle, Minister of State for Home Affairs, announced in Parliament in 1973 that at that time there were still 1500 prisoners in England and Wales engaged in that most traditional of custodial chores. These days, of course, prisoners are encouraged to follow more constructive activities, or to learn skills they can put to practical (and hopefully legal) use when released once more into the outside world.

The fact that mailing bags are now generally made of polythene is also a consideration.


Post, modern style

Postage bags are one of our most popular products and sell in large quantities in all sizes and colours, of which there are many.

If you’re looking for a low budget solution for bulk mailing, then our grey polythene bags are ideal, and are available in 16 sizes from C5 (170 x 239mm) right up to a massive B1+ (850 x 1050mm). But if you want your package to stand out from the crown, then our coloured polythene mailing sacks will do just that. With nine eye-catching colours to choose from, including purple, orange, green and yellow, your post will certainly draw the attention of whoever’s doormat it lands on.

All our post bags are also weather proof and tamper evident, so whatever you want to put in them will be totally safe as it makes its journey through the postal system. And, best of all, they’re made from tough 60 micron polythene, so the chances of them getting ripped en route are extremely slim. Which, given that we can’t get them fixed by old lags doing time anymore, is probably just as well.

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Dave Smith

With a background that has included spells in marketing and editorial management in the publishing and performing arts industries, Dave is now a valued member of Davpack’s marketing team, where he is our lead blogger and senior copywriter. Still relatively new to the business, he will be aiming to look at the world of cardboard boxes and packaging materials from a slightly different angle to the usual. Davpack

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