Yesterday's Technology . . . Today!

George Clark, who wrote this story, also sent in some pictures of the Sunday Telegraph. They can be seen here.

How We Did Things on the Sunday Telegraph

FIRSTLY, there is something which I think I should explain. I have been as guilty of this as much as anyone else. In referring to a "Ship" I have failed to precede the word with an apostrophe. It is in fact an abbreviation of "Companionship". When I entered Print in the 1930s printers had their own vocabulary, a layman would have been mystified to hear Compositors conversing in those days. A body of Compositors were known as a Companionship.

By the 1950s this was dying out. On a number of occasions I have come out with remarks in the old vocabulary and young Compositors have looked at me as if I was mad! One practice up to the end of Hot Metal at the Sunday Telegraph was that following the lunch-break the Senior Operator would call out "Line On" and woe betide any Operator who switched on his machine before he called.

I wonder what would be the reaction if I walked into today's room of keyboards manned by today's body of "part-time housewife, ex copy typists" and shouted "Line On"? Another point I have noticed from the letters I have read is that Operators refer to "Fonts". This is an "Americanism" which might go well with Computers but for those in Hot Metal they were "FoUnts" although we pronounced them as fonts. I was well acquainted with this long before I started my Apprenticeship since my father and grandfather worked as Typecasters at W. H. Caslons!

Returning to the object of my Story. I joined the Sunday Telegraph Grass 'Ship in April 1964. The first machine I was allocated was one of about four surviving Model 4s on the "A" row, I think it was A5. My "side-page" (there I go again!), was a Regular known as "Monty" with whom I got on very well. Sadly I did not have his company for very long before he went into retirement.

I retained my machine during the six months that I worked as a "casual" but with the loss of one of the regular 20 to a "Daily" I filled his place, soon after I moved to C2 on the "C" row. My left-hand side-page was Tony Crichton-Smith the Grass FOC, my right-hand side-page was Ernie Haswell both of whom I referred to in my previous Story. My back-page was initially Eric Ashworth on B1, at that time a Grass Hand but who soon moved up to the Regulars and my back-page became Les Mervish. Both A5 and C2 were set up, as were the rest of the machines "on the line", with single-column moulds (11 ems) for 4 and three quarter pt., 7pt. and 8pt. which were the "Takes" we were entitled to lift from the Copy Desk.

Universal Ejectors

One other aspect of the Linotype machines was that although they were mainly Model 48s none had Universal Ejectors, all had fixed Ejector Blades. If there was a double column mould on the machine it was generally permissible for the Operator to change Blades. I count myself lucky that in all my 22 years on the Sunday Telegraph I only "pushed out a liner" once, and that, with a Universal Ejector. In the case of the Intertypes they all had Universal ejectors and with the influx in later years of Linotype Model 78s, they also had Universal Ejectors. Malcolm Gregory also refers to Mohr Saws, to the best that my memory serves me only one Model 78 had a Mohr Saw. this was "D6" which carried 10pt. and was a "spare" machine.

Another interesting development was the handwheel for turning in or out the vice jaws. This was standard with Mohr Saws but at one point in time the Management had all machines fitted with these. A definite improvement since it was much quicker to change the vice jaws than the pinch/pull-out bar on Linotypes or the pull-out and twist wheel on the Intertypes.

At times when there was no Copy we "slated", chalking our names on a Slate at the Copy Desk and when one's name came to the top one departed with the next "Take" and rubbed off our name. I recall in connection with "Slating", the arrival some time later of a new Grasshand, one Bill Bell, as Scottish as they come. He had at one time worked at D. C. Thompsons of Dundee, publishers of the Sunday Post, Weekly News, People's Friend and inevitably The Beano! Anyone who has seen the Sunday Post will appreciate the significance of the fact that . . . if Bill was following me to the Slate I would write his name under mine as "Oor Wuillie"! He eventually moved over to the Daily Telegraph and finally retired to the West Country.

One Saturday whilst working on C2 I jumped out of my skin when there was a huge flash behind me. Upon looking round it was to find that I had been photographed. A feature was being prepared for the Peterborough Court, the House Journal of the Daily Telegraph of which we received copies regularly. When published, the photograph showed a view down the gangway between "B" and "C" rows with me in the foreground. Subsequently, Ernie Haswell moved on to a Daily Newspaper and I moved up from C2 to C3 and my first "Fat Take". This turned out to be a Table for the City Pages setting out the current prices on the Stock Exchange, I believe this was before the F.T. Index had been instituted.

Besides the machines on the line as I have already described there were a number of "spare" machines. Those machines on the line had 7pt. and 8pt Roman with Bold. I have forgotten the founts we used before the introduction of "Telegraph Modern". Obviously occasions arose where we were required to use italic. In this case one had to transfer to the "spare" machine which carried italic. As I recall "D4" was one for 7pt. and 8pt. italic, also there was and Intertype F4 (mixer) in the Heading Room which carried Bold and Bold Italic, this was also normally a "spare" machine.

The Heading Room

Mention of the Heading Room reminds me. Malcolm Gregory refers in his Story to the "Monkey House", on the Sunday I never heard it referred to as anything but The Heading Room. However, I have a faint recollection whilst working as a Regular and meeting the Daily members of the Edition 'Ship when they came in at 2.30pm of hearing "Monkey House" mentioned. Apart from using the "spare" machine in the Heading Room, this was not the province of the Grass Hands and was solely used by the Regulars.

I had quite a long spell on C3 before I moved again, to the next machine on "C" row C4. In addition to the three founts mentioned this carried 9pt. and a 9pt. mould. So I was into the single-column Intros although I have to say that we did have some 8pt. ones on the line. With the 9pt. one also had some more lengthy takes since we did some of the work on the Leader Page. If it was a "quiet" day for Copy we also got a bit of setting to do on Features for future Issues.

This then continued until I reached the final "Fat Take". This was originally on C1 but by the time my turn came a bright new Model 78 had been installed on "A" row, I believe it was A8. It was set up for double-column 12pt so one got 12 x 2, 12 x 2 into 12 x 1 and even 12 x 3 into 12 x 1. For the latter, one had to turn in the jaws and double-slug for the 12 x 3 (just think of all the minimums you were writing in. There was also a 4 and three quarter pt. "Fat Take" which you got with this machine, it was tabular and something for the City Pages but I cannot now remember the details.

On the question of 4 and three quarter pt. all Operators got 4 and three quarter pt. takes when the Sports results started to come in, there was also some 7pt. takes turned in to 4 ems for the football tables which were cut up on the Slug Saw by the Random Hands and made up into columns. So that was me to the end of my time as a Grasshand. There were also a few odds and ends that I got from time to time, one was to revise the Radio and Television programmes where changes had been made at the last minute, this was generally done on B9. I also got odd jobs to do, largely due to the fact that I must by then have been the longest-serving Grasshand.

Perhaps I should explain my long "stint" with the Grass 'Ship. About ten years or so after I started, my Mon.-Fri. firm, Burrup, Matheson & Co. were starting to make moves in relation to changing over to the New Technology and I was, for all intents and purposes, at the top of the retraining list. In the October I was offered a spot as a Regular on the Sunday Telegraph but turned it down since I was keen to get into the New Technology. However, in December Burrups published details of retraining which included an upper age-limit of 55. I was 57 at the time, but after interviews with each of the Directors on the Board I was still ruled out. Of course, with my refusal at the S.T. I was now at the bottom of the seniority list.

However, my chance came and I became a Regular in June 1985. With all my past experience as a Grass Hand I could cope with just about everything which was offered to me. The only thing I had not handled was the Classified and blowed if that wasn't the first thing I got on my first Wednesday morning. I seemed to get it every week after that. One thing I set out to do was to get things into a style, which no-one seemed to have attempted before.

Advertisers scribbled their adverts in all sorts of fashions. With my work at Burrups the GPO as it then was, used to send in an official style for the setting out of Telephone Numbers, Postcodes, etc. so I was well versed in these and in the succeeding weeks managed to convert all telephone numbers and addresses into the official style, something which probably passed unnoticed.

And so I sailed on until 29th March 1986 when the New Technology could stand on its own two feet and I drifted into retirement. However, I felt I could not forsake my beloved Linotypes and started a Part-time job operating an Intertype C4 in Dartford, ostensibly for a couple of years which became one of nine years!




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