2007/72 Barry Nicol interviewed in his home in Kelty by Sarah Bromage on 4th May 2007
Mr Nicol served his apprenticeship at Aberdeen University Press, before moving to the Aberdeen Journals, Cornwell and Sons and then into Sales. He remembers printers annual trips, dances and sporting clubs. He took part in a Printing and Kindred Trades float in commemoration of Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation in 1953.
0000 Born 15/6/1934 in Great Yarmouth. Lived there until was 4 and then spent 2 years in Fraserburgh and then in Aberdeen until 30. Went to School in Aberdeen at Victoria Rd Primary and Torry Academy for last 3 years. Left school at 15.
0122 English teacher's father was a printer and she suggested that he go into printing. Could not start apprenticeship until 16 so started work as a junior manufacturing stationer with Middletons in Aberdeen. Stayed until 16 and then started apprenticeship.
0230 Had to sit exam and he took at City Office of Printing and Kindred Trades in Aberdeen. Went to night school at Aberdeen School of Printing studying typography. One of the tutors was the joint managing director of AUP. Came second in exam and asked him if there were any apprenticeships and he said he could fit him in.
0353 This is how he became a compositor. Started in Feb 1950. Was only one apprentice to start at that time. Was an apprentice trickling in every so often.
0430 The Scottish Typographical Association was the union and the firms could employ apprentices on ratio of 3 journeymen to 1 apprentice. The Master Printers were allowed bonus apprentices at a lower ratio if they decided. Wanted as many apprentices as they could.
0541 AUP was closed shop. PARL in Aberdeen were non union. 95% of print works in Scotland were unionized. D C Thomson were non unionized.
0630 Was assigned to jobbing section, had small jobbing section which did commercial stuff. Man in charge was Mr Leys. After a year was moved into case room.
0736 Had to go to night school for at least four years. Curriculum was formed round City and Guilds. Could try C and G intermediate typography after two years. Four year complete qualification. Could take Higher qualifications.
0903 Apprenticeship was 7 but when he started it had been reduced to 6 but he only did 5. Was called up in last year of apprenticeship and the unions had to accept that National Service was part of apprenticeship.
1010 Last apprentice before him had nipped off to Canada before his call up papers arrived. Did two years national service.
1056 Went to Aberdeen Journals on night shift and went to Cornwell and Sons. They did lithography as well. Was guaranteed job at AUP but wanted more experience.
1147 Most work in AUP was books and wanted more experience. Was at Cornwell for 2 years and then went to C Davidson and Sons where moved into Sales.
1253 When entered AUP. Building was very old. Bottom level machine room. Next level caseroom. Attic was where the equipment was stored. Building was between Students Union and paint factory.
1355 Found that the AUP employed a number of women compositors. Throw back to before mechanical composition where people hand set. Employed women who were not classed as printers and were paid piece work. Girls faster than men.
1512 Type set in galleys and corrections they had to do themselves and would not get paid for that. Most had disappeared pre War but when men called up and many women came back. After was they were still retained. Did nearly all correcting of galleys. Used to set maths equations and chemical formulae. Mentions Sian Reynolds book
1630 Edinburgh centre of printing and women setting rates were cheaper so got bulk of composition. Most printed and sent down to London on flat sheet.
1727 Worked 7.30 – 4.30 with an hour for lunch. 42.5 hour week. Would work Saturday morning but that was overtime. Rates of pay for overtime.
1814 Pay would be percentage of journeyman. Journeyman 10 pounds a week. First year apprentice would be 20% of that. Overtime was sought after. Always paid on a Friday morning and paid union dues to Chapel Clerk.
1921 Role of the Chapel. Chapel link to management. Man who was FOC was Willie Hay. Clerk was George Robertson. Only time had grievance was Aberdeen were playing Rangers in Cup tie on a Wednesday and were not given time off. Was negotiated that could go but would have time deducted.
2053 Cornwells strike in 1959 when commercial printers went on strike. Cornwells in the Castlegate would meet in mornings outside work with golf clubs. MD would come in and would scowl at them with their golf clubs.
2212 No obligation to picket, was pretty solid there was no need to picket. Different unions for different work roles.
2347 Union dues. First year apprentices never paid, were a member but never paid. Second year would start paying, would pay more each year as your pay went up until you were a qualified journeyman.
2440 You would set everything, you would get everything sent to you. At school was told to learn Latin as would help with printing. Never set more than two or three pages. Greek at the AUP. Book that he worked on. Catalogue of ancient papyrus in ancient Greek. He had to create characters. Six months on this and thought should have learned Greek.
2630 Latin helps English but in terms of pure setting has not been helpful.
2700 Main books were books on Maths, chemistry. All University levels. One book called Chance and Choice by Lawrence Hogben who was a lecturer at University of Birnmingham. Produced the book and it was weird, set book and sent galleys away. Galleys came back with no printers errors. But after many galleys he left a note saying 'Great, got you at last!'
2900 No contact with authors as they dealt with the publisher and then the publisher dealt with Sales who dealt with us. Had London rep called Linney and David Duncan who would go down to London and would have dealings with James Nisbet (children's publishers) and he left to go with them.
3000 Harold Watt was joint MD who was son of Theodore Watt who had been chairman. Watts well known in University as relative was Secretary of the University.
3036 AUP consisted of the University Press and the satellite plant called the Rosemount Press which had been sent up to print a newspaper. Kept that for voters roll of Aberdeenshire. Later on bought a binders called William Jackson who were just off Union Wynd in Aberdeen. Years later bought over Cornwells. AUP taken over by Maxwells. All closed up now.
3233 Well over 100 people, with 60 in caseroom. Had typesetting room as they were monotype. Monotype better than slug casting.
3320 In office with costing and estimating there was about a dozen including wages.
3347 Composing a book, could vary wildly. Also how long would it take to proof. Would get sub edited manuscript. Set up and produce galleys. Take proof and correct it. Take another proof and these go to publisher who will send to author. Would then do correction and proof it. Make it up to pages and add illustrations.
3537 Proof to the publisher. Author will not see paginated proofs. If any corrections; will do so and take another proof. It is then imposed and they are put down chase and put into furniture and it is printed. Book if folded with different sections which are sewed together and jacket put on.
3720 Sometimes the proofs disappear and you do not see them for months. Sometimes a book will take years. On one instance at another printers were setting a Bible in Gaelic and a minister was doing translation and his eyes gave up so book put in abeyance. Five years later had to get another person and his translation would be different.
3900 After Cornwells went to C Davidsons and Sons mill and Muggiemoss the produced cardboard / chipboard. Involved in Sales. Did not see much of future in print as read a report that 80% of printing companies in Britain were family owned. Only 20% would actively recruit at the top. Went doing Tech at School of Printing and one of lecturers said they had been reviewing packaging and felt that that was going to be growth industry.
4111 Davidson advertised job and he had knowledge of printing and wanted to get into packaging. Was there for two years and got opportunity to go to Kimberly Clark who made tissues. Develop Sales Techniques at Kimberly Clark.
All Sales films were American based. Was with them for 6 years.
4317 Based in Aberdeen with them for 3 years and then 3 years in Glasgow as Sales Supervisor.
4400 Wife came from Glasgow so happy to move back. Married in Greencock and set up house in Paisley. Traveled a lot as territory stretched from Glasgow to Fort William. Later did not travel much.
4510 Head hunted to Lloyds Industries. Studying marketing while at Kimberly Clark and got diploma. Scotland and Tyne Tees Sales Manager for them, they produced Turtle Wax. There for two years in Glasgow and then moved to Manchester.
4730 Went back to printing, interested in export marketing. Company called SanType based in Salisbury who were technical typesetters. There for two years and spent time in American market.
4846 Went to paint company, things were quite ropy with SanType. Sherwood Parsons had launched new paint. Spent two years with them.
5036 Not living in same town as family and had had enough of that. Job advertised with E J Arnolds in Leeds, big printers and joined them and was with them for two years. Arnold family sold out and looked like there was going to be a change.
5148 Charlesworths who were IBM typesetters and wanted to develop into laser typesetting which Mr Nicol knew all about. Was with them 6 years.
5317 Would not put him on Board and he felt that he had had enough. Went Eyre and Spottiswoode who were the Queen's printers as Northern Sales Manager.
5430 Pattern logical as he had skills that he could teach the companies. Does not want to spend all his time in one company. At start you would work for the company but last few years would say it was about you as an individual.
5622 Within lifetime will probably have five or six changes of career in your lifetime.
5700 Social aspects of working within the printing industry. Wayzgoose was always on a Sunday. Went to Inverness by bus.
5800 Would pay for trip themselves. Annual dinner dance
5949 Football team
6000 Had to do own work role, could not do other persons job role.
6156 Football team would play other printing firms teams
6300 Golf championships and characters that would play in the championships.
6400 Image of Print. Printing and Kindred Trades float around Aberdeen on the occasion of the Queen's coronation
6730 Shows photos of the float.
6800 Bowls and Cricket.
6900 A lot of people were sport orientation but it was very adhoc.
7000 Cannot remember more than one annual trip. Thinks they may have gone to Edinburgh
7100 Term wayzgoose not used as much in Scotland. used sometimes as the initiation ceremony for an apprentice when his time is out
7150 Studying for full Technological Certificate. One of the students George Sutherland produced a student journal. One or two students wrote articles for journal Printing Impressions.
7300 Individual George Massey who started as lithographic artist. Lithography picture drawn straight onto a litho plate.
7400 Bookseller in 1979 Article by Archie Turnbull. Background of Archie Turnbull. Talking about death of hand composition. Decline of craftsmanship in the trade.