Geoffrey Alsop

(R and R Clark)

2002/12 Geoffrey Alsop interviewed by Sarah Bromage in the small boardroom at Queen Margaret University College on 14th February 2002

Mr Alsop worked for R and R Clarks for 30 years as the overseer for the monotype typesetting department. He also taught evening classes at both Heriot Watt and Napier College.

000 Left school in 1946 and got a job as a cinema projectionist. Then was asked by a neighbour if he wanted to become a printer. Started as a trainee compositor.

017 Based at Riskatype moved into working with monotype. National Service.

027 Job advertised at R and R Clark, moved to Edinburgh. Job advertised in union journal. Worked there from 1955 until closure of R and R Clark. Moved to the Scotsman in 1984.

052 Made redundant in 1989. 6 people in the monotype casting and 10 / 12 people in the keyboard department. In total 600 people on the firm. Located in Canonmills and a lot of people lived locally.

073 Social outings, went to Berwick, Largs etc once a year, a close firm. Social club, cricket team, golf, dominoes, president of bowling club and annual dance.

105 Union member, strike of 1959. Wanted to work on day to basis. Managed to get settlement.

122 Worked in monotype dept. Man in charge of department left. He took over, got promoted. Meant he was in a staff position so he did not have to clock in and out.

133 Changes in management. When Blair Maxwell in charge he knew everyone and would walk round the factory. When he left you became just a number.

144 Taken over by Thyne's and in a large conglomeration, sold premises at Brandon Street and moved into an industrial estate at Newhaven Road. Took over Constables and amalgamated.

154 R and R Clark took over Cunninghams of Alva, employees came through. Firm taken over and moved to Morrison and Gibbs at Tanfield.

158 Finished with hot metal and moved to computer type setting. Just the same but were setting on film. Training at firm in Liverpool for a week. Firm adapted well to new technology.

186 Towards the later years were asked to set type and then it was sent abroad to be printed. There was a general decline. Up until 10 years before the close did not have a sales department, work would flow in.

207 Tuesdays and Thursdays were overtime, would tell the foreman if you couldn't work. Paid time and a half on Tues and Thurs. Saturday paid double and treble on a Sunday. This was to discourage employers from making people work weekends.

216 Taught monotype at Heriot Watt on Monday and Wednesday. 12 people to a class and 4 machines. Would teach to City and Guilds level.

242 Would invigilate exams. Would get disruptive students as firms made attendance compulsory.

258 Length of apprenticeship. Women compositors and two women monotype compositors; started during a strike and were kept on. Monotype casting was all male. Monotype keyboard had one women but she retired and was replaced by a man.

278 George Bernard Shaw had a long history with R and R Clarks. He would not have his books produced elsewhere. Personally he never met any of the authors.

288 Jokes played on apprentices. Asked to go and get a long weight / wait. Foundry made plates and would ask to get plates from the Last Supper.

303 Storeroom known as Jerusalem. Names for different storerooms.

312 Taught evening class. 3 monotype and 4 linotype teachers. Some teachers were full time, but all time served at firms. Worked at Heriot and then moved when it went to Napier University. Cut backs and got rid of evening classes. Disadvantage as many classes would be attended by journeymen who had not had monotype training. It would take 3 years to learn monotype.

338 R and R Clark based periodicals. Family atmosphere waned.

349 Computer typesetting at the Scotsman. Then worked in a law firm in Edinburgh.

361 R and R Clark old monotype operator who would not learn from the older generation.

371 Production included book printing, magazines for churches in Edinburgh, medical printing. Who's Who; there was a staff of compositors who worked on Who's Who for 6 months and then the University yearbook for 6 months.

385 All publishers had a style of setting and there was a book with the house styles of the firms. Approx. 2 or 3 days work on each job and each job had a different style.

406 Overseer's job in monotype casting would use monotype keyboard. Keyboard had a matrix case with dyes for casting. 7 alphabets in a case. Each job would have alterations to text. His job was to make changes to matrix.

419 Responsible for maintenance and repair. Operators were working blind and setting on paper type. Correcting mistakes. All men on bonus schemes, would calculate bonus and he would check if the bonus that the office gave was correct.

440 Could make £3 a week bonus. Were earning £15 a week. Keyboard operator would have to do 8,000 characters an hour before bonus. Errors would be taken off bonus. Readers would check.

456 Many would work 11 hours a day including overtime. 5 ½ day week working 7.30am - 4.30pm. Shift system 6am - 2pm and 2pm - 10pm. Would also work 12 hour shift for 4 days. It depended on workload. Always busy

469 Mathematical setting was difficult. Copy was sometimes handwritten and difficult to decipher. Who's Who was difficult as contributors would change their entry. This made it harder to make bonus.

483 Attention to detail had to be maintained as you were docked if there were too many mistakes.

491 Contract. Union rate for job. Printing trade was a closed shop. Typographical Association was different in Scotland. Phone interview.

504 Clarks employed people from all over Britain and elsewhere. A lot of Greek, Russian and German setting. When you are setting it did not matter what language, though it did make it slower and the assessment for bonus was different.

517 Classical reader who dealt with foreign languages. A dozen readers. Liaison with other departments. Socialising within the firm.

526 Groups would play bowls. Golf club was owned by R and R Clarks. Nelsons had bowling green and were the first to put in a bar.

535 End.


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