by Reg Walker
The last copies of SO Review to hand are for the years 1976-1981, plus 20 or so from 1982-1986. Many of those editions contain reports of staff retirements. Obviously, not all such events were reported, but the following summary of those that were may provoke some happy memories. They are produced in chronological order.
Paul Maher joined HMSO in 1946 and his retirement was reported in February 1976. ‘He was brought up in the woods of Newfoundland as one of a family of thirteen. This early upbringing, combined with a strict education from the Christian Brothers and the Jesuits, deeply influenced Paul. Following demob from the Canadian Expeditionary Force he joined HMSO and served in Shepherdess Walk, Gee Street, Orsman Road and finally in Atlantic House. Not many people knew of his regular broadcasting for the BBC Overseas Service. As Bert Leader said in his presentation speech, Paul was one of the last of HMSO’s characters . . . there was a time when he placed himself in an ‘Out Tray’ and asked the messenger to take him away — a request refused because he was over the maximum weight of 30 lbs. He was probably the only person in the Civil Service to write minutes in files beginning ‘Dear . . . ’ and ending ‘Yours, Paul.’ All human beings, he said, must play the clown. His intention was to return temporarily to Newfoundland and write a novel.’
Bob Gowen joined in 1939 and retired as Manager of Harrow Press on 14 April 1976. George Macaulay presented him with a Workmate bench, an electric drill and two sets of glasses. Before his own retirement, Bob presented an ‘electronic watch’ to Ernie Rumbold (with HMSO from 1941) upon his retirement after 10 years as Control Officer in ‘C’ Press. He had previously served in Cornwall House, F/CEPA and Great Smith Street Press. Max McMurdo had been with HMSO Edinburgh since 1950 and ‘a vast number foregathered at the McMurdo Mansion to say farewell to Max, that unforgettable character who for so many years had ensured that the standard of printed matter was maintained at a very high level.’ Digital watches must have been the fashion accessory of choice in 1976, for that, too, is what Max chose.
Lou Edwards managed his full forty years, and from what I remember of him I’m sure he laid a bet on it the day he joined. He was in PP on the occasion of his presentation by Johnnie Hynes. Fred Pymm (1930 entrant) went from Harrow Press, and Ray Bannister (1939) from London Warehouses. Finally, for 1976, ‘Albert Salmon tidied his desk for the last time and went up to the Conference Room in Atlantic House where over 70 of his colleagues gathered . . . born on 11.11.1911 in Darlington, he chose printing as his craft although he has always been a railway enthusiast. He served in the RAF and on demob joined HMSO, working in Finance, Print, ITW and Works. Those who had worked under him included Bill Simper, Tom Pierce, Sidney Harold Tripp and Ken Allen (who made the presentation).
David Hinnigan was early off the blocks in 1977, as outgoing DD Industrial relations after 28 years with HMSO. Colin Beever presented him with a cheque and sent him happily on his way to retirement in Bexhill-on-Sea. Harold Glover also retired, his presentation being given by Deputy Controller Tony Glover (no relation). In Leeds, Len Johnson left the RB after 23 years as o.i.c. He was moving to PS12, Sovereign House — not a retirement, but it must have felt like it.
A spate of people leaving Norvic House (Chapelfield, Norwich): Jim Westley was working in CEPA when his time came, and Stan Hays saw him off in style. ‘Since joining Finance he became famous (or infamous) for owning a large red Volvo – a fascination for all who watched the progressive rusting of the body. Sadly, on the very day of his retirement he was involved in an accident — he escaped unhurt, but for the Volvo it was fatal.’ Another worthy, Charlie Whittlesea was also to end his career of almost 50 years. He joined ITW2 in 1946. ‘He owns two boats, is a lapidary and a Governor of Heartsease School. A bound book of over 150 signatures and a cleverly written and designed card by Tom Smith (A24) were presented.’ And still they come. AJ ‘Jack’ Mottram (1946) had been a fireman in London during the war, then joined the Gordon Highlanders. Like many, he joined HMSO Print upon demob. Last but not least Daisy Thurston MBE, who joined HMSO in 1934 as a qualified Hollerith operator. ‘She was inspired to join by Miss ‘Jonie’ Jones . . . had given 43 years service, and had worked in 8 buildings under 10 Controllers. Among gifts was a cartoon by ex-colleague Eric Scott showing Daisy receiving Meals-on-Wheels from the State Coach.’
Under the title Mister Publisher Retires there was a report of the leaving, for deepest Suffolk, of HW Leader (1946). ‘He will be greatly missed, officially for his wealth of knowledge and experience, and by his multitude of friends to each of whom he was always ‘Bert.’ 260 people signed his parting gift and 150 attended his farewell. Frank Davey, making the presentation on an evening of considerable emotion, spoke of his 31 years in every branch of Publications. He started as a CO, made a cheeky application in 1948 for a new Bookbuyer post, got it and proceeded up the ladder through Pubns Publicity, DD Pubns and finally Director. Bert loved every minute of it, and everybody loved Bert. Had he, asked Frank, no weaknesses? Yes — the most awful puns. Example: when the toilets were blocked and staff lined up at the only one operating Bert remarked that '’that must be a PQ.’ Or again, he thought that Geriatric must be a German footballer scoring three goals. Frank made his own awful joke in explaining why Controllers were getting smaller. It was because of the low staff ceilings imposed at CSD. Ouch!’
Not strictly a retirement, but October’s Review contained the following: ‘Those of our readers who remember WJ ‘Jack’ Scott, formerly of Works Division, may be interested to hear that he has recently returned home to Colchester from Bellville, South Africa, where he has been employed for the last five years.’ Jack joined in 1935, and was SEO in Technical Development Division alongside Messrs Lonon and Allen in 1968. Frank Parker (1934) ‘retired from PP Manchester . . .a picture taken on the day shows him with Alec Wilkinson and Clem Dronsfield.’
‘Ted Pritchard, Senior Foreman OMTS, retired on 6 October after 38 years service. He will be remembered for his friendly tenacity in proving a technical point whenever one came under issue. At the time of this publication, Ted is probably in Australia visiting his son.’ Also from OMTS, ‘Terry Langton has been with HMSO since 1941 and was presented with the ISM by Manager Dan Farquhar at Rep.Centre Basildon. He was the Varityper expert.’
In March 1978 W George Herbert ended his 32 year career with a presentation from Andy Fisher (CEPA). In his time he had been a Ship’s Printer on P&O, and maintained a lifelong interest in radio. ‘Five days after Geoff Porteous was born the Great War at last came to an end’ (writes Muriel V Searle). ‘Coincidence, perhaps, but Geoff did strike many who knew him in later years as a harbinger of peace — equable, cheery, untempramental . . . in 1947 he took the CO exam and came 11th out of 1000 candidates. He joined Keysign House, then London Gazette, Supplies, Establishments and, after promotion to EO, Publications. He is now researching a full length history of Dartford in his spare time.’
Sometimes people wrote their own valedictions: Archibald Campbell ‘Jock’ Barr was a 1948 entrant, coming into the service from the RN: ‘By the time you read this I shall be an ex-civil servant . . . I dislike the word ‘retiring’ with its connotations of reduced physical and mental effort . . . thank you all for helping to make the last decade of my career the happiest of all the thirty-odd years I have spent in the Service.’ Jock spent most of his HMSO career as a CO in ITW, then Supplies. Vic Nevell did not retire in 1979, but, as Chief Bookseller at Post and Trade, Cornwall House, he ‘was presented with the BEM by Lord Soames on 10 October. After starting with HMSO as a boy messenger in 1940 (Vic, not Soames) on 21/- a week, he rose through the ranks to become Chief Bookseller in 1966.’ Les Crisp did make it out the door, though, after 46 years in service — 31 of which were at HMSO Manchester. And most of them at the Bookshop. He cycled daily from Burnage, initially to the office in King Street. Bob Norris presented him with a carriage clock (good to see the trend for digital watches had not made it out of London by 1979) and those clamouring for the celebratory sherry included Ella Coyle, John Childs, Stan Robinson and Jim Wilson. Another Manchester retiree was Rose Hamer, ‘Personal Clerk, after serving eleven years. At her presentation, conducted by Bob Norris, were Ella Coyle, Fred Beesley, Vera Newton, Doris Lawton, Ena McGill, Jean Bissell, Audrey Mather and Marion Harwood.’
‘Ron Towersey Foreman OMTS and formerly Assistant Manager OMTS until his formal retirement in August 1975 finally retired on 21 December 1979 after serving with HMSO for over 50 years. Ron joined HMSO straight from school in October 1929 at the age of 14. He worked as an outdoor mechanic from 1933 to 1948 and spent three years at Manchester during that period, being promoted to Assistant Foreman at Leake Street. On the retirement of Charles Jarratt in 1960, Ron was promoted Foreman and remained so until the arrival of Keith Beak as Manager, OMRS. He was subsequently the first Chief Foreman — subsequently Assistant Manager of OMTS.’ Dan Farquhar (then Manager) made the presentation; the picture showed Ron being ‘paid off’ by the Cornwall House Cashier, Rae Eustace; and the article was written by Les Crawford — the last surviving Manager of OMTS.
The Review published in June 1980 advertised a ‘unique detached Victorian 5 bedroom/3 reception house, sympathetically restored . . . gas c.h.; one third acre garden, magnificent views over Norwich £47,950.’ Robbers. There was also a report of the retirement of RT ‘Bob’ Walker, who joined HMSO as Assistant Controller of Supply and Publishing in 1972. He was a Naval man, and prior to joining HMSO he was Deputy Head of Armament Supply at MOD, Bath. Perhaps surprisingly, his retirement gift was a Workmate bench. Margaret Bass, who had worked in the Staff side office also retired, and chose an Ainsley pie-plate and server. Frank Ashman opted for a cheque (always a shrewd move) to ‘purchase a set of woods’ according to biographer Charlie Lloyd. Frank was a veteran of 1935, and ended up as SEO in Supply Division, with the relatively rare honour of having CG Blundell as his presenting officer. He retired to Tasburgh.
And still they come (or should that be go?) . . . ‘123 years service to HMSO has been amassed by four Manchester staff who retired recently: Office Keeper Percy Tattershall, 38 years service; Fred Pinkerton, 26 years plus 7 years with Ministry of Fuel and Power; Alec Wilkinson — 29 years — and Clem Dronsfield 30 years.’ My, there was a clear out in 1980. Teresa B Cremmins had the pleasure of escaping from Edinburgh office — after 43 years — under the wing of Director Ken Rhodes. Her last 14 years was spent as Supervisor of Duplicator Operators. ‘Through her involvement with the CS Sanatorium Society she organised her first ceilidh, which was no mean feat for a Cockney among Scots.’ And I think Miss Cremmins wins the prize, hands down, for the most thoughtful of retirement gifts: ‘A crystal goblet which she had hand-engraved with her own idea of a shepherdess, for her many years at Shepherdess Walk; the plant Basil for her spell at Basildon; and Thistles for her stay in Scotland.
Again, I suppose that this is not strictly a ‘retirement’ but Ruari McLean passed the mantle of Typographical Advisor to HMSO on to Matthew Carter after 14 years. John Saville and Bernard Thimont marked the occasion (and incidentally noted that Mr Carter’s father had been the first ‘Head of Layout’ for HMSO in 1946). Then, ARH ‘Tony’ Glover Deputy Controller left HMSO to take up post as Chief Executive with Norwich City Council on 7 August1980. ‘He paid especial tribute to Dorothy Sellar — ‘a quite admirable Secretary’. Controller Bernard Thimont made the presentation.’
Now we come to the Retirement of Charles Blundell! I have before me his 419 page Autobiography ‘Gluepots’ ISBN 0951712101 now out of print — try Amazon. Charlie Lloyd wrote the piece: ‘A large number of friends gathered in the Sovereign Club on 30 June to see off CWB . . . In a witty speech the Controller told us some of Blundell’s many interests — silversmith, artist, metal worker, antiquarian, model maker, gardener, cricketer. Charles chose to further his artistic interests in retirement and was presented with a range of artists materials including a canvas chair so that he could paint in comfort — We have lost a great character: who will forget those minute — almost illegible notes — even more difficult to answer than they were to read?’
January 1981 was a good time for three ladies of Edinburgh to call it a day: ‘With a total of 43 years service in HMSO between then Charlotte McVicar (20 years) Ann Blaikie (13 years) and Ann McCall (10 years) packed it in.’ And pretty happy they looked about it, according to the photos. Also out the door were Stephen ‘Digger’ Dungate and his wife Vee Dungate. ‘Digger joined the Post Office as a boy messenger in 1939 and after war service with Air Sea rescue in Ceylon arrived at HMSO in 1951. He worked in Supply Machinery, Publications, Audit, and finally HEO in Training. Vee managed 11 years after joining, in Norwich, for 6 months. John Balls presented them with a crystal jug and whisky glasses, plus a limited edition print of Lt. Ira C Eaker’s B17 in flight.’ In a subsequent Review Frank Meads (then at Basildon) recounted several stories involving Digger, who he had known since they lived nearby in 1926: ‘ . . . Steve and I go back a long way. He had been with me when I became the youngest lad to win the Senior Civil Service Heavyweight Boxing Championship. Steve had a less illustrious amateur career. Coincidentally, John Daly had boxed on the same bill, at Cruiserweight.’
Roy and Norah Henderson also had a joint retirement. Between them they were with HMSO (mainly Works and Pubns respectively) for 74 years. AW ‘Bob’ Carey managed 34 years and left with an Olympus camera and accessories presented by John Balls, DPS. Mention was made of his Union work, cricket, table tennis and piano playing. ‘Office life without his laughter ringing down the corridors will not be quite the same.’
‘Nearly 100 people crammed into the Sovereign Club on 25 May to say goodbye to George Furn, Director of Office Services, who joined the Service in 1939 (HMSO 1953). Presenting George with a camera and book of signatures, Controller Bill Sharp paid tribute, not least as ‘the only chap ever to have managed a Staff Inspection resulting in his own retirement — on advantageous terms.’ In his response, George recalled his early colleagues, including Daisy Thurston — ‘the last practising perfectionist’ — Charlie Blundell — ‘an experience to work for’ — and Ralph Chisholm — ‘the wisest old bird. Then he paid tribute to ‘the three musketeers of OS Division, Frank Payne, George Rokahr and Judy Pritchard.’ 100 must have been the magic number, as ‘Well over 100 friends gathered on 16 October to say goodbye to Derek Dashfield, Director General of Supply and Publishing, leaving the office after 35 years service with HMSO. ‘Ken Gooderham, Deputy Controller spoke pithily of the career of ‘a true HMSO man.’ As he said, ‘Derek cared.’ In his response, Derek admitted himself somewhat surprised to find himself in this position at quite this moment, for the timing had come a little unexpectedly, although he had always intended to work only as long as his car held out: its windscreen had shattered that morning. He spoke of years in the Private Office, Bristol regional Office, and ‘getting through 12 secretaries’ paying particular tribute to the last two of a long line, Jean Storey and Doreen Furness.’
My word, the early ‘80s saw a wholesale retreat of the demob brigade . . . next up to the oche was RF ‘Bob’ Norris, another 43 year man. ‘He joined HMSO before the war as a CO in London and after service in the RAF rejoined as EO, then HEO in 1952 and — because or in spite of a stint as EAC in the mid-1950s — became SEO in 1962. ‘A meteoric rise by HMSO standards’ in Controller Sharp’s words. Being a good Mancunian, Bob took the money — a cheque for £140, a book of signatures and an unidentified bottle. Tom Harris, a friend since schooldays, revealed that Bob’s earlier employment was with the Borough of Blackburn Treasurer’s Department, collecting pennies from the local public lavatories.’ Following some complimentary words from Controller Sharp, Bob said that he was ‘particularly pleased that so many retired colleagues were present, especially the five friends who had been fellow clerical officers in Manchester 40+ years ago — Tom Harris, Les Birch, Harvey Wilde, and Jack Richardson.’
‘At an informal gathering on 18 September in the Sovereign House Typing Pool, Vera Rankin was presented with a carriage clock and pair of binoculars on the occasion of her retirement after 42 years service with HMSO, the last 13 years spent in Norwich as Chief Superintendent of Typists.’ The presentation was made by ‘Frank’ Franklin, and among those present was Vera’s replacement, Mary Robinson. Ben Pearson, then ADPP, was the next to appear at the door. ‘Although a native of Birmingham, he was posted to HMSO Edinburgh on 4 September 1939 — the day after the outbreak of war. In making the valedictory address, Alec Smith (DPP) thanked Ben’s wife Vi for coming down from Edinburgh for the man occasionally known as ‘the second-hand Scot.’ He spent time in London and eventually Norwich, and would be remembered for his helpfulness, kindness and general unflappability.’
What is the collective term for Civil Service Trades Unionists? Whatever it is, there was one at the parting of Don H MacFarlane MBE (HTO) in 1982. Barbara Burberry was there, and among others visible in the photograph were Messrs Hatfield, Staples, Pawsey, Teedon, Vivian, Brixey, Smith, Coleman and Hall. ‘Amongst the many enforced retirements — sorry, redundancies — resulting from the implementation of the new Retirement Agreement earlier this year was that of the Trade Union President. Don joined HMSO in 1964 following overseas service as Government Printer and adviser to a number of Commonwealth countries. He had served for 10 years as IPCS Secretary, and his contribution to TUS deliberations will be greatly missed.’
‘Cornwall House lost one of its longest serving denizens when Phyllis Steer retired on 27 August after 34 years with HMSO. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of her career is that it had been spent entirely on the first floor of Cornwall House and all in the Customer Accounts side of Post and Trade. When she joined as a machine Operator in Cornwall House, the officer in charge of recruitment (at Keysign House) was Mary Eagles. Phyl worked through the ranks to t/p HEO. The presentation was made by E Sidney Brooks.
‘On 21 October 1983 many friends of Ken Sandford gathered in the Sovereign Club to wish him a happy retirement after 34 years with HMSO. Sandy, as he is affectionately known, joined at Keysign House and has worked in P&B, Contracts and Works. In 1956 he married Jean Mortimer who was then EO in Publications. He has a keen interest in music, and has been the organist at a number of weddings of his office colleagues. The presentation was made by George Macaulay, DGP. Closely on his heels, but at Cornwall House this time, we witnessed the departure of Ray ‘Fish’ Whiting. Yet another 43 year man, and another presentation by Sid Brooks, DDPD. ‘Much discussion centred on his activities in ordering a commodity referred to code 13-21.’ (Anyone in doubt as to what this was should consult KJ Coleman, who seems to remember all the Supplies codes).
I certainly remember the retirement of Dan Farquhar, Manager OMTS, and have a book of photographs taken on the day. He had spent 35 years in Government service, and joined HMSO from MOD as deputy to KL Beak (the first Manager OMRS who joined from the Post Office in 1961). Dan was Manager from 1972, and the presentation was made by Don Ray, DS. He was given ‘the bird’ by some of his staff- a fine example of an inebriated taxidermist’s art.
Not strictly retirements, but Norman Frost made three ISM presentations to Harrow Press staff on 5 May 1983 — to NL Spear, senior binder operator (28 years); RD Lines, warehouse department (35 years) and ST Barrett, composing department (33 years). On 26 August 1983 Bob Barnard, DDPS1, made a retirement presentation to Tom Parslow of Superannuation section, who joined HMSO in 1965 after 17 years service elsewhere. ‘Tom says he will use the money collected to buy a greenhouse, as he has recently moved to Sheringham.’
‘On 11 July 1984 in Belfast one of the old-timers decided to hang up his pen and finally retire. It was, of course, Norman ‘Antrim’ Glenn, a long-term contributor to Review. Everyone in Belfast must have heard about his retirement and this special occasion (Ninty buying a drink, in The Buttery). Vi Wilson, Director, made the presentation of an electric typewriter.’
The penultimate edition of SO Review to hand (March 1986) has a picture of Mary Nelson at her retirement. There is, alas, no narrative, but Mary was a Messenger in the early days of Norvic House, and ran the place like a fortress. And my final edition, June 1986 (appropriately in commemoration of 200 years of HMSO) contains the following piece from Les Crawford. I had better get this right, as Les will be reading this from his home in North London, and, as ever, will be quick to correct any mistakes: ‘John Bunce was one of the longest serving members of OMTS when he retired in January 1986, having joined in 1946. He had served in the Fleet Air Arm during the war as an Aircraft Fitter and joined OMRS as a typewriter mechanic upon demob. On promotion to Foreman, he took charge of the section engaged in the conversion of machines ready for the advent of decimal currency- a mammoth task which was successfully completed on schedule. He then, in turn, had control of Provincial Servicing, Central Stores, the OMTS Productivity Scheme, and was Editor of TOPICS (the OMTS magazine). He was also the first OMTS Training Officer, taking the section into the world of new technology.’ I am sure John had a special word for Brian Puplett (Assistant Manager OMTS), but I can’t print it here.
So that’s it as regards the published records of retirements — in SO Review at least. Any Readers’ comments or further reminiscences will, as ever, be appreciated.