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Paddy's Pay Parades

by Vic Kefford

I worked in Atlantic House from 1966 to 1968, before moving to Norwich. I was a Clerical Officer in Establishments (Salaries and Wages section). Each week we would receive ‘clock cards’ from what was then termed ‘Industrial Staff.’ Thursdays and Fridays were our busiest days. We would then work out their pay and various overtime rates and then submit them to the Wages/Salaries Machine Room for the Machine Operators (MOs) to ‘mechanically process’ their pay record card and pay envelope. I believe they were NCR33 machines — no PCs in them days. The MOs were all women and a nice bunch they were. Unfortunately I can’t recollect all their names. However, one was Hilda Franklin — I wonder why I remember her? Some names I do remember were Bob Seaman, Buster and Fred. Buster was the spitting image of Uncle Albert in Only Fools and Horses  and of course long before the television comedy evolved. He had been in the Navy as well, and was the chief ‘character’ in our office — always had us in stitches. He would be over 100 now. Other names I can’t remember other than their particular ‘quirks.’ The chap that fell asleep during the lunch hour and snored very loudly — drowned out the traffic noise in Farringdon Street; the chap who fell asleep while holding a conversation with you; the ‘little chap’ that was always hidden behind those big wooden ‘In’ trays that sat on the desk. When I moved to Sovereign House I also worked with Matt Quinn, who had a wicked sense of humour, and Valerie Knowles — (daughter of Viv, stalwart of the Supplies Paper section, and a great advocate of the Tram system . Doreen Luer ruled Superannuation with a firm hand in those days, and Tom Ferris worked in the Pay Section).  We were a good crowd and generally got on well.

Some Fridays were considered by me as a ‘horror’ day. On certain Fridays individuals were nominated to go along to the Cashier’s Office to make up the pay packets — it was nearly all cash in those days. If memory serves me it was in a small office at the end of the building, up some steps. The cashier during my time was a real ‘stickler’ (there are other words I could have used). If at the end of the period (after putting all the money in the pay envelopes) you were left with as little as a penny, you had to go through every envelope to see where you went wrong — and it happened on numerous occasions. In fact, staff endeavoured to make excuses not to do this chore — like the chap who said he had lost his wooden leg, the person who was ‘in a meeting’ (hiding in a cupboard); the individual who claimed that he was allergic to metal, silver etc, and the woman who said she was expecting a baby — she was due to retire the following week.

Lunch times involved a stroll around Holborn and a visit down Leather Lane, next to Gamages. I used to go into Gamages, into their pet store where they had a talking mina bird. Quite a crowd used to gather to hear it talk — made more sense than most politicians. I also recall a small restaurant in Farringdon Street (opposite the small road leading to Farringdon Tube Station) that did super omelettes of all types — made a change from the sandwiches It all seems a long time ago; however, the good times fondly remembered.

Reg Walker adds:  Vic Kefford worked with HMSO in London, then in Norwich. He retired from CCTA in Norwich some years ago.  I was in Cornwall House during the period in question, and I too ‘suffered’ Pay Duty. More often than many, as each Division had to provide its allocation of ‘Established Clerical Officers’ and ITW did not have that many who were not clever enough to come up with good excuses. The Cashier was Paddy Epstein (see previous comments from John Hopping). My best day ever was when I was ten shillings out, and had to go through the packets twice before Paddy grudgingly admitted it was his mistake. I went home and told my mother, who didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. I also knew Bob (real name Vladivar) Seaman when he worked in Norwich. He originally came from Wells-next-the-Sea and lived near me on the Heartsease Estate. Sadly, he died at a relatively young age (born 1928). If Hilda Franklin is still around she will be 91 this year. Other names on the Establishments Machine Operator List were Miss Hammarton and Mrs Packer. I remember the mina bird; Gamages, the Farringdon Road book barrows and cigarette lighter spare parts service, and Lloyds Tobacco Factory are of course long gone, but Leather Lane survives in a slightly smarter form.
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