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Retirement Day
28 October 1994

by Fred Stubbs




I felt a little bit apprehensive on the morning as I got ready — I had joined HMSO in 1958 and was about to retire in 1994 — a long working career — so I knew that today would be a big day for me, emotionally.


I remember the day well! I put on a suit, not my usual mode of dress for the studio, and wore my 1950s tie, which depicted St Paul's Cathedral and Windsor Castle. Most designers have some particular personal display such as, long hair, crazy jumpers or T-shirts; mine was fancy ties — flower-power designs, ‘guards stripe’ types loud colours etc. So, I was really delighted when I arrived at the studio in St Crispins to find everyone wearing fancy designed ties, made of stout cover- paper.


My ‘send off’ festivity was to take place in the Graphic Design exhibition room — a large room with display cabinets where many examples of GD work could be seen. There was quite a gathering of people, apart from the designers there were many from Publications and Print Procurement — all looking splendid wearing their fancy paper-ties.


Unfortunately, John Saville, Head of GD was away on business, but I was pleased that Philip Marriage was able to take over for the occasion. All around, on the display cabinets, was piles of food, which the designers had organised. Philip opened the proceedings with suitable comments and then it was my turn.


When I was fifty the designers, knowing one of my vices, made and presented me with a large box in the shape of a liquorice allsort — this was filled with liquorice allsorts. At the time, I told them that I would keep one liquorice allsort in the box until I retired. On the retirement day I brought the liquorice allsort box with me containing the one remaining liquorice allsort. I explained the reason for this for the benefit of everyone and of my promise to eat it — which I did on the day — it was a bit on the hard side by now.


Before giving my retirement speech I read out a poem which I liked and one which I thought appropriate for a design group — ‘The Scribe’  by Walter De La Mare (below). I finished with a short speech and hoped that I thanked everyone, especially those who had organised the day, made the ties and arranged the food.


Now, it was back to Philip, who presented me with a beautifully half-bound signature-book which was gold blocked and covered in a delightful marble paper. Then I was presented with a large, exquisitively-crafted box, which to my very pleasant surprise contained a large cleverly-made (from polystyrene) ‘gold watch’. Philip demonstrated ‘how it worked’ — when opened it showed the various friendly, witty, droll greetings and comments from the designers. A very nice memento, which I value as though it was a real gold watch.


Now that the ‘speechifying’ was over it was time to eat the food. I had bought some bottles of champagne which I had left in the canteen fridge, so I thought that I would go and fetch them in to help the occasion along a bit. However, just as I was about to do this, a very attractive girl came into the exhibition room — I didn’t recognise her until she took off her top coat then I notice from her mode of dress that she was a ‘Kissogram girl’. Now the fun really started! Lots more photographs and me, having my tie removed — all good fun. Then I had the difficult task of choosing the winner in the fancy-tie competition. After much thought and encouragement I declared Richard Nelson the winner — he said ‘That’s the first time that I have ever won anything’ — so that made his day. Corinne Barker was second and Ashley Camm was third.


I still have many of the fancy ties and cherish the ‘gold watch’ and signature-book; the cards and photographs are in a scrapbook. Before writing this piece I looked at the cards, photos and signatures and the names, faces and characters were recalled. I had worked with a lot of them for many years — they were not just work colleagues, but good friends. At first I thought that I would become emotional, but the day was such good fun and was most enjoyable, unforgettable.


Such occasions do not just happen, it has to be planned and organised. It is to those people, those who came to ‘send me off’ and those who made the signature- book and ‘gold watch’, that I give a very big thank you — it was a truly wonderful, and memorable day.

Fred Stubbs

[Photos of the festivities can be seen in the Picture Gallery   by clicking here]


The Scribe


WHAT lovely things
     Thy hand hath made:
The smooth-plumed bird
     In its emerald shade,
The seed of the grass,
     The speck of the stone
Which the wayfaring ant
     Stirs — and hastes on!

Though I should sit
     By some tarn in thy hills,
Using its ink
     As the spirit wills
To write of Earth's wonders,
     Its live, willed things,
Flit would the ages
     On soundless wings
Ere unto Z
     My pen drew nigh
Leviathan told,
     And the honey-fly:
And still would remain
    My wit to try —
My worn reeds broken,
     The dark tarn dry,
All words forgotten —
     Thou, Lord, and I.


Walter De La Mare
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