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Harrow Press News  1971-1977

by Reg Walker


Peter Fairall — who retired from Astron in August 2006 — worked at Harrow Press in the 1970s, and saved copies of Harrow Press News  for a number of years. Most of the information was ephemeral, but the following extracts may serve to remind readers of names and events from more than 30 years ago.

There were several copies of minutes of JCC meetings, signed off by SA Smith (Leader Employees’ Side) and K Allen (Senior Works Manager). On occasions, J Brookes, Director of Works, attended. Among items discussed were ‘. . . Harrow’s telephone directory tonnage will rise to about 13,500 tons in 1972 rising to about 15,000 tons in 1973, depending on Harrow’s new rotaries being in full production . . . Harrow’s costs on general work are very high . . .’ The Harrow Press Project Information Bulletin  was produced in 1970 to give details of ‘computer techniques being used to compile future TDs, with magnetic tape provided in place of the usual printer’s copy . . . alphabetical directories are already being converted to this system and the Yellow Page Directories  are expected to follow suit about 1973.’

John Comber (IRO) was enlisted to edit the first edition of Harrow Press News  in May 1971. RH Gowen was promoted to SWM at SSPP, with CT Goddard as his deputy. KP Sandford became deputy SWM at Harrow and M Warner moved to Planning. It was noted that Arthur Phillips, DDTech, won a Printing World  award for his book Computer Peripherals and Typesetting.  An ISM was presented to Frank Hatcher (Binder) whose wife Vera had received the same honour the year before. Tom Cobb retired to Ventnor, IoW. TJ Richardson (Compositor) also received an ISM.

The Sports and Social Club (Secretary R Pitt, Engineer’s Department) ran Old Time Dancing on Wednesdays and Whist Drives on Fridays. The football team — The Woofers, Secretary J Moran (Main Comps) was knocked out in the semi-final of the Lewis Cup by C&E. They also played an Australian team, Bushwhackers FC, where 18 men were fielded on each side. By the way, for non-printers’ information, ‘woofers’ is a term meaning ‘wrong founts.’ The Woofers rugby team (Secretary D Liggins, Main Comps) played their first match against Roxeth Manor Old Boys and lost 33-3, the try being scored by I Parrott of ‘C’ department.

An article on training courses held at LCP for FOCs depicted Anne Stanley, Ken Hyett and Jim Miller. Also pictured was Peter Swaffield, engineering apprentice, at the helm of a resuscitated Albion press, of 1846 vintage, which had been used for 30 years by Jack Baldwin — Jack was still going strong at the age of 91 in Wealdstone. The retirement of Thomas Stanley Kitchen-Kenyon, who joined HMSO in 1926 as guillotine operator, and a piece on Robert G Aitken, ‘S’ department, who had been appointed local government councillor at Harrow Borough, then a picture of a Rugby scrum (Woofers again) said to include K Saunders, A McColl, K Greenhalgh, F Payne, D Lewendon, R Stockwell, G Gardiner, K Lander, G Pollard, D New, J Fleet, E Bolger, J Burgess, D Liggins, and I Parrott. A few ‘ringers’ in there, perhaps?

In July 1971 Jim Wiggins was transferred to SSPP as SWO (nights) after serving at several presses during his 45 year career, including Hare Street, Bethnal Green, and Pocock Street. New faces at Harrow were Geoff Brooks, Gd II Overseer, and a fresh-faced Robert Stutely, Manager ‘S’ department, from Technical Services. Alec Newell, Gd IV Overseer, retired after 45 years. Pictures of prizes for apprentices, and more of Cornwall House Laboratory, including P Stansfield and E Arnold.

Arthur Fitch joined Harrow in 1921 as a Readers’ Boy and retired in 1971 as journeyman in ‘C’ department. Bill Cattermole, Platen Minder, also retired, as did Bill Morris, Manager of the main composing room. Mrs GF ‘Trudy’ Packer also made up her last wages sheet in the office. The team for the inter-HMSO six-a-side football competition was M Jones, B Russell, R Webdale, R Kearn, P Thomson and G Batcheler.

In October 1971 Ken Allen published the following note: ‘For the next few months I shall be away from the Press. Together with CW Blundell, DE, I am undertaking a series of career development interviews with technical office staff. While I am away KP Sandford will be acting SWM and AA Smith will be his deputy, although he will remain Production Manager. DG Forbes will be Mr Sandford’s special assistant.’ Then there was Fred Abbott, who retired as messenger; Mrs GM Whyman as warehouse-woman, and S Riches as FOC SOGAT ‘A’ (PMB) Chapel. The Horticultural Show prizes went mainly to BJ Hillier and W Hillier. Ernie Guildford retired as Overseer Gd III and a Social Club dance attracted 300 people dancing to the ‘Blue Notes.’

In December 1971 Ken Allen found that he had a further three months of interviews, leaving AA Smith as acting SWM, M Warner as PM and KP Sandford moving to HQ. The annual children’s party was attended by 287 children. Len Moss, Binder, and George Adams, Gatherer Assistant, and J Patterson, Office Manager, retired. EJ Smith moved from P&B to become Office Manager. February 1972 saw work at the Press being severely disrupted due to the national emergency. The smiling features of DG Forbes accompanied a piece informing readers that he had left his post on 17 March 1972 to become Night Manager, SSPP, after 8 years at Harrow.

Under the heading ‘Fish and Chip Breaks . . . Management pointed to inefficiency caused by breaks taken on half nights when these were already included in the period 9.45-10.45 pm. It was agreed that the Chapels would consider improving the method of collection in order to eliminate abuses . . .’ Pat Stone joined the Press as Industrial Relations Adviser. At the children’s sports day, Mrs Chuter won the Glamorous Granny contest and Jean Smith was crowned Beauty Queen. Stan Gossington retired after 47 years, as did J Brookes, DW. In October 1972 ‘R W Stutely, Manager of ‘S’ Department was recalled to Technical Services Division, his place being taken by WW Hulbert. The Planning Officer seat will be taken by GB Levick. ‘In the latest edition of the HMSO publication Accidents  an article outlines a number of incidents known to the Factory Inspectorate, some of which resulted in criminal proceedings. They range from drinks being doctored with dangerous solvents to the case of someone who was pumped full of compressed air by his workmates. We are not immune from this problem at Harrow as the setting off of an insecticide bomb in the factory proved not long ago.’

The dispute between Management and the NGA (Composing) Chapel concentrated minds early in 1973. As regards personalities, ‘On 4 June 1973 AA Smith, Deputy SWM left us for Atlantic House to take up his post as Head of Works Reorganisation. FL Pymm has now taken up the Deputy SWM post and M Warner has replaced Mr Pymm as Project Leader. K Lowe has transferred from Technical Services Division, Norwich, to take over from Mr Warner as Production Manager.’ FE Harrington succeeded SA Smith as IFOC. ‘Congratulations to EJ Smith and KW Greenhalgh, both Overseers in ‘S’ Department, who have been awarded the National Examination Board’s Certificate in Supervisory Studies.’

On 1 September 1973 EJ Smith was promoted to the technical equivalent of SEO and transferred to Manor Farm Press . . . Ken Morgan from Gateshead press will be coming to Harrow to take over the post of Office Manager.

The Christmas Message from RH Gowen, SWM, in December 1974 was as follows: ‘When I wrote the Christmas message in the Harrow Press News  this time last year we had held our mass meeting in the canteen and finally declared ourselves wishing and willing and determined to solve all our problems and get on with running the Press. A year has passed and the new telephone directory printing machines are a year older but production has still not been possible. The reason is obvious and the solution is simple but to our work force as a body, totally unacceptable. We can agree terms to operate our new plant that are acceptable to the separate unions but we just cannot agree terms that are acceptable to all. Maybe we will one day accept that a trowel is a much better tool than a pickaxe with which to build our future and let us hope that one day will be soon.’

His April 1976 message said that ‘Most of you will know that I shall be leaving Harrow Press on retirement this Easter . . . a lot has happened since I first arrived here in 1965 . . . to say that it has not been roses all the way is perhaps a bit of an understatement. But to compensate for that there are people here who have done much to solve problems and to bring about the successes we have achieved . . . I want to say thank you for your help. Your new Manager is Rex Affolter, who is already well known to many of you. Goodbye, good luck, and thank you.’

Harrow Confidential Press closed in 1978; the Security Press closed in 1979; Manor Farm Press closed in 1981. Harrow Press finally closed in 1982.

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