Tom Ballard

(Collins)

2001/165 Tom Ballard interviewed by David Finkelstein at Queen Margaret University College in Edinburgh on 6 November 2001

000 Born in Edinburgh in 1925. Brought up in Glasgow. Went to Glasgow High School. 1943 Royal Marines and offered University place where did 1st year in 6 months.

030 Demobbed in 1946. Went back to University and studied English. Influenced by his Professor, Peter Alexander. Graduated in 1949 and got married. Loved English literature so thought that publishing was the answer.

077 Lucky, wrote to Collins and got trainee position.

099 Based at Cathedral Street and went into children's publishing department. Exciting place to work, 7 or 8 trainees who were mostly from England.

119 Collins had 9 different departments and the factory was just yards away. 600 time served men at work and 1500 women in the bindery from the Townhead.

143 First time went in the bindery was surprised with all the whistling and catcalling, women could be very direct. Most were recruited straight from school at 14 / 15 years old. Had great manual dexterity for handwork.

162 Male journeymen were the elite; piecework scheme. Journeymen could pick own team of girls. Men made a lot of money on piecework. Girls were exploited, but some journeymen would supplement the women's piecework with their own earnings.

185 Foremen had total authority, little union involvement. The union would help with working conditions, not taking people out on strike though. 1951 not aware of the effect that equal pay legislation could have. Gathering machines were very expensive and it was easier to use women.

225 In a 43 ½ hour week the best bible gather could gather 130,000 signatures, very quick. Conditions in the bindery; sandwiches hung on beams to avoid the rats. Collins had a pension scheme, subsidised welfare institute (canteen), holiday home at Largs

250 Welfare was dependent on the Collins family. Collins was a protestant company; some Catholics employed but it really seemed to matter in the bindery. Bindery had two departments that were solely Catholic and the rest were protestant.

275 Unenforced segregation in the bindery gradually disappeared. Fights were generally over men and not sectarianism.

290 Sport was male orientated, had badminton. As part of training went to Stow College of Printing, couple of years of costing and estimating. More interested in the print side, father in law in printing and influenced him, he was fascinated in composing type.

316 Moved from Collins after a year. 25 years old and on low pay, needed more money and to advance quicker. Managing Director of Collins was a great influence. He was Chairman of the Master Printers and the unions had respect for him.

346 Moved to James Paton Ltd. Knew Charles Paton who spoke to Mr Collins and he gave his blessing to the move.

360 Paton's was a medium sized jobbing printers, employed 55 to 60 people. Did a potted apprenticeship; 3 - 4 months in the caseroom. Union not prominent in the firm, family firm. In caseroom set sticks, worked on monotype then moved to paperstore, machineroom and the bindery.

382 Idea behind his move was that he was to succeed Frank Paton, not aware of this. Frank Paton had no sons and when he died in 1955 he was made managing director.

398 At Paton's between 1951 and 1965. Unions did not inhibit firm. In 1959 strike the union said people had to picket. If it was wet he allowed union officials to sit in his car and sent out tea. The factory did operate during strike but if there was a problem could always go and ask for advice from those picketing.

427 The industry got a slight settlement to get them to come back. At Paton's paid above stab rate, would need to, to get good journeymen.

451 Paton's biggest customer was the Scots Wool and Hosiery Store. Hand fed colour leaflets. Hand fed sheets 1,000 and hour could be fed on one machine.

468 Won Printing World award for colour printing. No uniform pay in firm, would reward good operators. Employees tried to prevent unemployment by not running machines at full speed, on instruction form the union.

490 Other countries like Germany could provide material faster and cheaper because they did not have the high labour costs. Could not compete.

506 Went onto the negotiation committee arguing about pay scales in the industry. Influenced by Hope Collins. When was given MD job at Patons was given a lot of help from certain individuals. Work of Hunter and Foulis. People he remembers.

544 Went back to Collins, was asked to by Ian Collins while playing golf for the Master Printers to come back as MD of operations in New Zealand.

559 While at Patons had still retained connections with Collins. In New Zealand Collins published British books and had a large stationery and factory. Needed someone with experience of printing.

571 Was in New Zealand for 2 ½ years and then Hope Collins died and they were looking for a successor. Asked to come back as manufacturing director. Collins was the biggest printers in Europe.

600 Collins produced 250,000 cased books, 60,000 diaries and testaments a week. The Collins gem dictionaries started to keep the factory going in slack times. 25,000 bibles, 50,000 stationery items, 450,000 paperbacks a week. In a good week produced 1 million books.

647 10 senior managers, 56 foremen and women, 1300 women and 700 men plus warehouse staff were employed at Collins.

660 Went back to New Zealand in 1983 - 1986 and left Collins.

669 In late 60s the unions were flexing their muscles. Were not dealt with by the government. Hope Collins left a gap, which the unions could exploit.

700 On request of the Master Printers took on a women at Collins who was a troublemaker. Unions could not get rid of her and needed to place her, thought she needed discipline. Did not work at Collins, was a communist and wanted the overthrow of the firm as thought that the days of capitalism were over. Took girls out on strike regularly.

748 Had to get rid of her but could not just sack her, as it would cause union trouble. Made an anti Semitic comment so they fired her, union took them to tribunal.

787 1970 / 1971 decided factory had to move. Printing had already moved to the old Blackies factory. Were pushed for space in Cathedral Street, bindery was on 4 different floors, which caused problems. Equal pay legislation coming up and had to get rid of piecework, move would help facilitate this.

832 Major changes. Billy Collins the chairman died. His son Jan Collins took over and sold his shares to Rupert Murdoch. He thought that he would get capital from Murdoch while still retaining the chairmanship, did not work that way.

858 All the other shareholders were against Murdoch. Jan resigned and the other son Ian Chapman became MD and tried to keep Murdoch at bay, lost.

867 Publisher/Printer relationship difficult. Publisher would place work and the printer would allocate this. Publisher frustrated with costs and could get it produced quicker abroad. In-house strike with litho printers, out for a week. Had to settle, as publisher needed a printer. Production became too dominant which was a problem.

919 General industry: problems with equal pay. Got through it as was sympathetic. Girls quite well paid; move from piecework to bonus rate. Women moving into other roles.

929 Bill Keys was the boss of SOGAT, fair-minded. Workable situation under equal pay legislation. Decline of the unions. Margaret Thatcher was after he left the production side. Revolution in setting type from hot metal to film setting. Caseroom moved elsewhere. Death of the apprenticeship system.

961 Recruitment of apprentices in Paton's. Competition was strong, well trained at College.

968 Family connections at Collins, many from same families. Foremen would make sure that the families were taken on, especially on the factory side.

990 End.

 

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