2001/147 John Simpson interviewed by Sarah Bromage in his home in Edinburgh on 29th October 2001
000 Went to school in Trinity College in 1928. Left in July 1938 and in September 1939 started in R and R Clarks. Father's employer knew C J Cousland who went for an interview and were put up for the exam. Passed and name was given to Blair Maxwell at R and R Clarks who was looking for an apprentice.
031 Blair Maxwell an outstanding figure. Mr Cousland set up this business. When was at Neills gave his son a job as firm was in trouble.
059 Apprentice in machine room, went to night school. Day release and night school. Apprenticeship 7 years started in 1938. Was called up. Started back and got a reduction in the number of years. Pay. 1942 - 1946 was in Burma.
095 Was in R and R Clarks until 1952 when moved to Waddies in 1952 to be Printing Manager. There until 1961 when was Works Manager in Neills where became works director. Taken over and resigned along with whole board in 1971.
130 People that took over Neills and sold off the type. Disreputable. Pat Fraser took firm back and the fraud squad were involved. General Manager of Office Printing Services. Retired in 1988. Was partnership with John Dunlop. Sold out to Palmer Printers in 1983 and he continued to work there in charge.
175 Now located in Causewayside. Palmer was a big company that was originally at Melville Crescent so expanded at Canonmills. Employed 30 people. At Office Printing only employed 12. Methods employed at the company. Used copy typists. Equipment used.
201 Computerisation of process. Vibration of machines, repairing of machines. Secretary of Printing Mangers and Overseers who would hold lecturers. Had permanent secretary in London. Technical lectures. Good social side including dinner dances. Diamond jubilee held at Balmoral Hotel.
245 Pension scheme. Devolved into the Institute of Printing. Bob Thompson and their association. Social committee included Jack Breadon, Alec MacKay, Bob Thompson, Jack Urquhart and Jack Williamson.
281 Guillotine beam broke and Greigs the engineers couldn't fix it, needed crossbeam. Morrison and Gibbs were scrapping one and they would not let them have it. Usually were helped when were in trouble. Example Jack Breadon wanted a mould case and let him borrow it, he put it on his inventory.
315 All knew each other socially. Work at Neill and Co. Book on history of Neill and Company, 1739 Neill joined James Cochrane. Items donated to SAPPHIRE.
335 Waddies were great for sales. They printed a brochure which was not strictly true about their manufacture. Waddies work overseas. Waddies was all stationery, had a lot of experience in Clarks jobbing department. Different types of machines that he worked on. Guards on the machines.
377 8 platten machines at Waddies. Flat bed machines. Knew all people. Went on holiday with other people at Waddies. Looking for promotion when he went to Waddies. Clarks had fixed trade holiday so could not have same holiday as children. Boys educated privately and cost money. Time overtime at Clarks. Annual report that they would have to work through the night.
413 Sundays was treble time. Everybody worked overtime two nights and Saturday morning. Had to ask for permission not to do overtime. Moved to different machine. Printed Geographical magazine and Encyclopaedia of Medicine. Printing medical journals.
438 Waddies Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. Caseroom had a lot of Sunday work. Bob MacKay manager decreed that hard type would stop, would come back in on a Sunday and put the type back in the cases. Other assistants and other friends in the trade.
460 Job at Neills advertised and got Works Manager job managing 90 people. Neills had women compositors over the war. Box caps of ink. Layers on at Clarks made the tea and delivered it in pitchers in the morning. Not allowed tea in afternoon, would take pallet truck to girls room and get tea from them. Carried on working through break.
494 Family atmosphere, at Clarks started a social club. Outings and Christmas parties. Wives and children came too. Waddies would provide tea in the morning and charged thruppence which would go directly into the social club. Director of social club at Waddies too. When Waddies moved put in a canteen, used it for the Christmas parties.
515 Children would play with children of other employees, everyone knew everyone else. Marcus Ward was the chairman and Kenny Ward his brother who dealt with sales and linoleum. Wanted him as he had experience with colour work and they had not done that before. Printing clock faces and reduction of spoilage rates.
540 Job checking clock faces. Making carpet sample matches which was difficult. Printing special letterheads and trouble printing design. Order had to be scrapped and he got into trouble.
567 Father of the Chapel at Clarks. Kept in the union till Neills. Waddies broke the strike to keep the place running. Implications of the strike on the printing industry: led to firms putting in their own print room.
594 On strike for six weeks and great loss. Managed to produce a small amount of cheques, but companies had to do without and thus installed own machines. Otherwise it would have been a disaster for banking industry.
627 Neills did greyhound racing brochure. Take overs of other firms. Introduction of litho and the beginning of photography. Move in technology and the installation of a foundry.
673 Progress in technology. Remembers talk saying that computers were coming into industry. Visit to a firm in Leeds which showed the transformation from letterpress to litho. Scrapping of lead helped to pay for litho machines.
707 Unions had a stranglehold over the whole of the industry. Strict division of labour and what the union would allow you to do. Wanted to move a labourer into the casting department and the union had to be consulted and it took a while for them to agree.
740 Neill and Co were struggling as a lot of their work was from London and it all dried up. A lot of the books began to be set in Britain and then printed abroad with the funding of British subsidies. Appointed a salesman in London to try and get more work, which work. Began to subcontract to get casters and monotype keyboard operator.
772 Went down to London twice a year to try and drum up trade and wine and dine customers. Took clients to classical music and to see Ken Dodd.
801 Dealing with Robert Maxwell, employees called him 'God'. Other printing firms and directors.
828 Fraser family at Neill's. Invention of typesetting machine by Mr Fraser. Using a lot of firm's money for research and development of this machine which nearly bankrupted firm.
839 Pat Fraser's father took over the company and then Pat Fraser took on company and built it up. He controlled 51% of the shares, built up contacts. Produced hymnaries for Oxford University Press. Worn plates producing ready reckoners, calculators got rid of this market.
874 Pat Fraser going out and collecting his car. When factory closed bought one of the machines. When company went bust and the fraud squad was called in. Company bought over and metal was sold off. Board had already resigned.
900 Put foundry foreman as works manager but it did not work. Were not even printing at factory. Closed and machinery was sold off at auction.
912 Problems with the factory building. Sir Walter Scott used to read proofs as they came off the press. Farquharson a medical author, would alter book so that he book indexing would not be altered. Families of authors visiting the factories.
960 Left firm for about five weeks and then was asked back.