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Joining HMSO (Layout)

The recollections of more than 41 years ago

by Ken Arnoldi

It started in April 1967, after the flood but before Mrs Thatcher. I had worked in various "Commercial Art Studios" for some years and had by then become freelance. The term 'redundancy' started to be heard more frequently in the commercial world and I thought it might be a good idea to try and get secure employment.

I then noticed an advert in the Appointments section of The Guardian. It was placed by the Civil Service Commission and invited applications for 'Illustrators' (I think there were around 50 vacancies) in various Departments Post Office, MOD, Home Office, etc, and 1 post at HMSO. I was not an illustrator, but on looking more closely I noted that the work description included lettering and typography which is what I did. There was 1 vacant post at HMSO. Now I had heard of HMSO and remembered buying a publication from their Kingsway shop when I was aged 14 (I recall that an air raid siren sounded just after leaving the shop!).

I sent for the application papers which arrived about a week later. All the posts were described as 'Established" (whatever that meant although I had heard of the term). Anyway, the form asked for a preferred choice of Departments, and although, if offered a post, the choice could not be guaranteed and the officer would be expected to go where (s)he was sent. I 'chose' HMSO, completed the form, giving the required details of 2 referees (1 for 'professional' opinion and 1 for personal or character reference).

Some weeks later I received an invitation from Sir Frederick Brundrett, one of Her Majesty's Commissioners, to attend an interview at the Civil Service Commission in Savile Row (I did consider getting fitted for a new suit but did not!).

There were 3 gentlemen on the interview board: 1 from the Home Office, 1 from HMSO and the Chairman. About a month later I was notified that I had been successful and subject to satisfactory references and medical examination, I would be offered a post and that my preferred Department had been noted.

Weeks later I received notification that an appointment for a medical examination with a local doctor had been arranged. I recall that this was not too strenuous and that for the eyesight test the Doctor held up 2 pens and asked me to name their colours. I said 'viridian and vermilion'. I am, from birth, near-sighted but have no problem with colour. The Doctor said that his report would be sent to the Commissioners who would write to me.

They did, and said that they wanted me to see an eye specialist and an appointment was made. This time I was asked if I could read wording of different sizes from a card . I said 'yes' it is 8/10pt Baskerville!

Eventually I was offered the post at HMSO but because of my sight disability it would on restricted health terms, This meant that if I was sick during the first probationary year I would receive a maximum of 3 month full pay instead of the normal 6 months. However, if I was not sick during that time I would become fully established and entitled to the normal sick pay.

It may be noted that I had been using my eyes for close work for 20 years without any problem. But of course Public Money had to be wisely spent . . . !

I actually joined HMSO in October 1967 6 months after first seeing The Guardian  notice. I believe that in 1972, with new pension legislation, the term 'established' was abolished and all posts carried pension rights.

Hello Ken, Many thanks for your prompt action in providing a perfect reminiscence for the HMSOldies 'Memories' section. My 1968 Staff List shows that at that time you had the honour to be the sole incumbent of your grade in HMSO; 'Illustrator.' Very impressive! And I hope it was worth the patience you showed to join HMSO. My entry, as Clerical Officer in 1963, took only three months. Best wishes. Reg

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