Bill Henderson

(Simpkin Label, Oliver and Boyd & Churchill Livingstone)

2001/169 Bill Henderson interviewed in his own home in Edinburgh by Dr David Finkelstein on the 4th November 2001.

000 Started in the booktrade in London. Was in University 1948 -1951. He moved from Edinburgh with his mother. Vaguely interested in bookselling. Advised to go and see J G Wilson of [Bomfuss]. Hatchards took over royal role.

040 He advised that he got a job in the wholesaler Simpkin Marshall based in Regents Park. Provided a single copy order service to the booktrade. Would learn background to the booktrade and what sold and what doesn't.

069 Got a job as a looker out, spent all day going round and compiling orders for people. Learnt a lot about London booktrade, who was who.

078 Manual index of publisher. Business doomed, providing tremendous service but not making any money. Was bought by Robert Maxwell and sold it. He came and gave address on how safe jobs were. Asset stripping: probably made money on real estate.

108 Book collectors who would go around booksellers and collect orders from publishers and take them back to the bookshop. 24 hour service.128 Smiths had wholesale house in Kingsway. Meeting place for book collectors who would divvy up orders. Were extremely knowledgeable. Paid peanuts by bookstore; when he worked at the bookstore he would do it.

155 Found out how to get books. First job at Simpkin Marshall paid £3 a week. Left and worked for bookstore in Langley in Kent.

167 Moved to city and worked for Jones and Evans bookstore for George Downie who was J G Wilson's son in law. Jones and Evans had business which had been destroyed in the blitz. Moved to Hatters shop. Books to the ceiling.

185 Supplied the Guild Hall library and the library in the Bank of England. Stationery office every day and collected governmental publications and distributed round the city. Book collectors. 1953 and there until he got married and returned to Edinburgh in 1955 to take a job in Oliver and Boyd.

206 Moved in to publishing. Paid £650, doubled his salary. Started as advertising manager. National service when left school, elder brother in India in 1930s who visited in 1947 and he advised joining Indian army to join him. One of the last intake to Indian army cadet force. Stationed in London and then transferred to army education core. Became a sergeant at Wellington barracks teaching band boys. Interested in education and went to University and thought about teaching and the book trade.

261 Became fed up with the book trade. No future and wanted to come back to Scotland. Met a friend Jimmy Thin on a train and he suggested that he came back to Edinburgh as Oliver and Boyd were looking for an advertising manager. He told him to apply, checked the Scotsman and applied. Interviewed and got job. Job meant you would write adverts for educational publishers. Trade side small, had to produce a catalogue and sold advertising space in the journals that they produced.

299 Sales manager who managed the trade and educational reps. 2 or 3 reps. Advertising job took in sales after he retired. Educational publisher, coming to the end of depending on large sales of primary and maths readers. Huge export market for those books.

320 Publishing and bookselling at Oliver and Boyd (O and B). Late 19th century the business was in difficulty and the wholesale died. The firm was bought out by the Thin family and Robert Grant the bookseller was founded.

334 Board was equally divided between Grant and Thins. Divided into factions and led to disagreement within and between the families. To get decisions you wanted you would find people to oppose proposals rather than propose. O and B were manufacturers as well. Interesting place to work.

351 Douglas Grant and possible people to interview including Bob Thompson. O and B sustained on export sales but because of the makeup of firm individual board members wanted to extend trade publishing. Curious establishment which was actively run by board of directors who met every day. Would meet between 11.30am and 2.30pm (over lunch time).

373 Thins and Grants would come down at lunchtime to attend to work of O and B. Ainslie Thin was chairman, interesting figure,and you needed to stand up to him. He had interest in Scottish history and would publish historical books.

396 Building at Tweeddale Court was difficult to work in. Renovation of building, behind the office was the printing works. Owned a lot of the tenement property which was let to employees in the bindery and printing works.

414 Bindery with generations of family who had worked there. Nostalgic for works. Location was between St Mary's church and tenement buildings. Trade union connection as female bookbinders were very active in unions.

434 Board published within own special interest. Board would call on employees. Worked Saturday morning and an hour and a half for lunch. Expected to be available. Very paternalistic firm, good pension scheme. Pay bonuses to employees, paid in cash each week. Had a counting house.

462 Export to Australia through the Happy Venture Readers for primary readers. Stated options for schools where all schools would read your scheme. Fred Chinell of Queensland edited these readers. Sam Stewart and the development of the readers range.

482 Rest of business more problematic. Wide but shallow range with not much focus. Involvement of the Financial Times which became the Pearson Group. Changes in the 1950s. Publishing became in the 1950s the twilight years of educational publishing, the change. Reputation of Scottish publishing and educational system overseas, trading on the past. Passing of companies through the generations which tends to erode the companies.

514 Atmosphere in the 1950s of publishing being amateurish. Jobs had to become much more professional and commercial. This had to happen. The hierarchical structure eroded. Thought you had a job for life. Transitional times.

535 Involvement of the Financial Times (FT). Booklet on O and B's centenary. FT product of Brendan Bracken who became interested in medical journal publishing. Became interested in education; got Lord Robbins on board who did interesting report on Higher Education. J and E Churchill production activities. E and S Livingstone publisher production activities. FT bought E and S Livingstone and began to look at O and B.

574 Edinburgh Booksellers Society (EBS). Robert Grant involved in running financial affairs of EBS. Douglas Grant involved. In the early 1960s the FT bought O and B. Under Robbins influence tried to develop the Higher Education list which at the time was minimal.

600 Examples of Higher Education books. Douglas became interested in theology and built a warehouse to accommodate stock of religious texts. O and B had a problem with overstocking. Ainslie Thin came in and developed science list. Translations from Russian. Medical Publishing; difficult to lose money being a medical publisher. His position and development of firm using outside consultants, increased sales reps and improved sales team.

650 Began to promote into Universities. By late 1960s Charles MacMillan retired from E and S Livingstone in Teviot Place. He was sole ruler of firm, astute businessman. No provision for succession so they asked him if he would continue to be Sales Manager of O and B and understudy Charles MacMillan with a view to taking over. Senior management at Livingstone all left at same time. He became the Medical Publisher.

695 Self supporting area of publishing as more specialist the better. Livingstone right next to Medical School. Charles MacMillan good at relations with the medical world. Very good at courting authors who loved him. Charles began to publish them when they were young. He got Stanley Davidson's lecture notes who was selling notes to students and MacMillan said he would publish them. Shared profit publishing. Tried to move into royalties. English Language Book Society which was a government subsidised schemes to compete with American Publishers.

766 Books were produced in UK and distributed abroad. Made paperback versions of standardised text books here. Popular in India and Pakistan and added to profit margins in titles. Meant that authors were earning a great deal. Would get capital from authors for costs of their first editions.

795 J D Churchill and Longmans were bought by FT. Merged into Longmans and Churchill. Moved out to Ravelston and then to Baxters Place off Leith Walk. Mergers and closures.

832 Split manufactory and publishing. Became MD of Churchill Livingstones. Still exists although the rest disappeared. Went to Livingstones from 1967 to 1973. Spent a lot of time at meetings in Longmans in Essex. Had become a publisher who was committed to relationship with authors. Ran a tight operation on low overheads and good margin.

864 Group overheads meant that your margin was eaten away. Did not enjoy travelling. Not interested in becoming a group manager and moving to Essex. Involvement in town council in Edinburgh. Had always wanted to do teaching so went to Moray House and became a teacher in English. Became a principal teacher in English. At 55 wanted to make a change and Chambers were looking for a Managing Director and he went to Chambers.

916 Chambers in a depressed state as they had just sold their premises in Thistle Street and moved to Annandale Street. Spent 5 years at Chambers and decided he wanted to retire. When he retired Tony Chambers was 70 and decided that the firm was in decline. Wanted to stabilise costs of the dictionary where they were spending a great deal of money on revising the dictionary. Introduction of computers into firm.

955 Tried to build the list in trade publishing. Link between the dictionary and Scrabble. Chambers important in Scotland but lacked scale. Reference merger with Cambridge. Tony Chambers wanted to leave and decided to sell the company to a French company Group de la Cité. Bought Harrap and merger the operations.

988 End.

© Copyright -All rights reserved Sapphire 2013