This reel-fed flatbed press was the invention of Scottish printer Tom Cossar, whose father John founded a printing business in Glasgow in 1867.
Although never patented, John Cossar had invented a folding and pasting machine to help his newspaper and printing business run more smoothly but Tom was to go a step further with the creation of his masterpiece, which was to become known as the Cossar press.
Tom’s passions lay with designing and manufacturing printing presses. His first complete Cossar press was shipped to New Zealand in 1903 and four years later his two-page wide press, which enabled up to an eight-page paper to be printed in one operation, was installed in the Strathearn Herald premises in Crieff.
THE press is also a symbol of a well known Crieff family’s continuity. David Philips was the last in a long line of Philips to edit and produce the Herald on the mammoth machine.
It began with David’s great grandfather, also David. The paper then passed to David’s grandfather, Edmund, then David Philips senior, affectionately known as the ‘Boss’, before finally coming under the helm of the present David Philips.
As an apprentice David junior learned all aspects of the business, especially using the machinery including the Cossar Press. He remembers one of his jobs was having to crawl underneath it to oil all the holes. He said: “Printing was a different part of the process altogether and it was always recognised as so by the unions.
“You were either somebody who set up the type or you were somebody who printed it. In those days one could never cross over but people did in our place because it was a small concern.” And it was for this reason and the reliability of the Cossar press that the Herald never missed an edition.
“The paper even went out during the general strike and the printing strike. Union members were compelled to go on strike during the printing strike but my father and I worked though the night to ensure the paper appeared. My forebears had done the same during the general strike, and also assisted with the Perthshire Advertiser to make sure that it was published.
“The Herald was printed on a Thursday afternoon. On press day you could hear it running in the house upstairs and from outside on the pavement. You could feel the vibrations of it operating although you could stand a coin on its edge on it and it wouldn’t move. Tom Cossar was a wizard. The press is still in excellent order
today. Well recognised printing engineers have said Cossar should have a statue erected in recognition of his services to the media.”
Reporters would type up their pieces and local correspondents send in articles. David and his father would sub-edit them and create the layout. The articles would then be sent through to the case room foreman who would typeset them in hot metal before printing up a proof for final checking. Pages would be imposed and the press would start rolling.
When the paper was printed it would be parcelled up with paste and string and delivered to the depot at Alexander’s Bus Station for onward transportation to the outlying communities.
“We would hear about it if we were ever late,” added David. “Sometimes the paper would burst on the reel. If it had a nick in it or a hole, it would catch. We would have to stop the machine as quickly as possible and clean all the inked rollers again.”
Speaking about the stories the paper covered during his time David stated: “One of the real highlights for me was the by-election in 1963 when Sir Alec Douglas-Home was Prime Minister and looking for a seat. George Younger was the candidate for the Conservatives in this constituency and he stood down to allow Douglas-Home to stand as the candidate for this area and subsequently, of course, he got in.
“At this time we had the television cameras in the office and the Prime Minister himself paid a visit to Comrie Street.
“This was also an historical moment as the edition announcing Home’s win was the last edition of the Herald in broadsheet before we turned it into tabloid size.
“That particular edition was amazing – because as we were printed by the old ‘hot metal’ method, we were able to stop the machine and drop new lines in when the result was made known. We were the first paper in Britain to record the results of that historic election. We had the scoop on the front page.”