Cyril Barson, ‘The Clown’.

On a few occasions I was guilty of taking the Piss out of Cyril Baron. But most times, I was completely innocent. Many times I would be setting away in my frame busily working.
Frank Lock would say, “Cyril, Warren’s making faces at You again!” Cyril would storm over to my frame and say, “Stop, making faces at me.”
“Fuck off!” I would answer. Then, there’d be an almighty blue between the two of us! Locky would chuckle to himself…
The best gag I did was to have a cartoon caricature of Cyril drawn. Then I got Burke Stone to make a printing block and Geoff Clarke printed a thousand copies off for me.
For the next 6 months these pictures would pop up on the notice board, on the ceiling, outside Cyril’s window and dangling from the Jobbing Room window.
Deep down I’m positive Cyril loved being the centre of all this attention. Cyril and his mate Sid Ball loved their Mother England.
When Ray Illingworth’s Mob looked like they would lose the final Cricket test in Sydney and the Ashes series, both Cyril and Sid worked out in the back room. We were told to “Keep Out.”
When England got up and Won they both came roaring back to the Comp Room arm in arm and singing “There will Always be an England” and quoting their beloved hero Winston Churchill.
Those were the days my friend!
Cyril had the Honour of being the only retiring compositor to be carried at shoulder height through the Netley Comp Room on his last working day!

Little George, our own ‘Teddy Tear Arse.’


First of all, let me say that the gentleman above is not George Goodman. Little George looked similar but was shorter of stature and had huge hands.

He was also a real Teddy Tear Arse. He worked on the Bills staff. He started at The Guv when he was about 63 years old. He literally ran while he worked.

The only person on the Bills staff who had anytime for George was Ivan who would steal time from Bills that George completed in half the allotted time.

Neville Gurr would wait out-of-sight in the passage with an 8 page forme. As George ran blindly around the corner he would crash into the forme.

If he showed any sign of going on the hand press all the Comps would rush in front of him and then take their time proofing their jobs.

One person (not me) loosened the quoins on his eight page forme. George in his haste never checked the forme and all the pages went crashing to the floor.

As he approached 65 years of age, he went to the Superintendent and asked to be kept on at work.

But, of course back then they wouldn’t allow it.

When George retired, it was slow and steady again on the Bills staff and Ivan had to work for a change.


“Sleepy” the ZZZZZZZZZZs and the Pompous Politician.

img_0103-1-scaled500In the days when Hansard debates were set in hot metal, the Intertype Operator reigned supreme in arrogance and ability.
They spewed out galley after galley of hot metal type detailing the nonsensical ravings of those who occupied the “castle” on North Terrace.
One of the best was Sleepy. “Mister Sleeps” was a great Intertype Operator, clean, accurate and always willing to take on the difficult stuff!
Along with his lookalike cobber and drinking partner “Grunny” they were a formidable team.
In Parliament at that time there was Robin, an astute politician and semi-naked runner.
We all knew he took hinself very seriously indeed!
But, back to Sleepy at the Guv, on every galley of type we set we would put a Signature line at the top of the galley.
It identified who had set the type matter on the galley, most of us used boring headers like RP.
But not Mister Sleeps his was a simple row of zzzzzzzzzzzzzz’s.
Now when the galley proofs went to the Reader these lines were struck out, but not one night!
Right slap bang in the middle of Robin the Half Naked Runner’s Speech appeared the offending zzzzzzzzs.
What did the very serious Robin think, “Oh, Just an innocent little mistake by one of those hard working, fatigued Old Guv chaps.”
Not on your bloody life, he saw it as a full bore frontal attack on his prowess as a speaker of note in Her Majesty’s Parliament!
“I don’t put people to sleep”, he roared.
His angry and furious reaction in demanding that the poor bastard’s head who had perpetrated such an outrage be impaled on a stick and hung on the gates of Government House said a lot about how dear Robin saw himself!
He definitely wasn’t one of us.
Needless to say an attack on one Intertype Operator becomes an attack on all and they met the Inquisitors in stony silence!
No horrible politician would get hold of a Brother’s head!
Afterwards, we all went back to using two letter bland signature lines.
Or Perhaps Not!  Game Over!

The Gazette Comp Room Punch Up.

Printers especially Compositors are often portrayed in the movies as drunkards, like in the above scene from “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”.
But, the Government Gazette comp room staff never needed such stimulation.
Often when bored with someone’s boring conversation the Gazette Staff would gather round the person and give them a Gazette Punch Up.
You would give the victim little pinches on the arms, light taps to the ankles, a little tug of the hair.
While doing this, they would like making noises like singing rhubarb and custard.
The routine usually took a minute.
The boring person on the receiving end would usually slink back to their frame.
Sometimes, someone would go just too far and throw solid punches on the hapless victim.

‘Dickheads’ Boof and his Mate.

Albanese-1Boof is on the left in this photo taken at the Unley Oval, probably back in the 1980s.
It was at the Annual Cricket match between the South Australian Government Printer and our Victorian counterpart. These stirring encounters took place on the Australia Day Weekend in January and started in the early 1950s.
Were they a chance to have a wild time, get pissed and watch others sweat it out in the middle of a cricket field in the sweltering heat of an Aussie Summer? Most definitely, YES!
Anyway, here we have Boof, Boofhead, Scooter Boots, Colsa or Molsa (alias Colin Rawlings) with his little toady mate Dave Barber.
I think they were imitating (very poorly) some skit that Paul Hogan (Crocodile Dundee) had done on his weekly show in the Oz.
Boof had been an apprentice in the comp room at the Griffin Press in the 1960s and had graduated to the Old Guv in the 1970s.
Big timer, done everything, knew everything sort of bloke who could be a mate one second and then….

The Thorne / Simplex / Unitype Foundry Typesetter, circa 1890s.

The Thorne/Simplex/Unitype Type-Setting Machine is now largely forgotten, even in otherwise thorough histories of type.
So completely did the hot metal composing technologies of the Linotype and the Monotype dominate the 20th century that the transition from hand to machine composition is now usually seen as an instantaneous event dated to the introduction of the Linotype in 1886 (or 1890).
Yet the Thorne (later called the Simplex, and later still the Unitype) deserves to be remembered.
It worked. It was commercially successful. It was manufactured in quantity (1,500 to 2,000 machines). Its makers survived for over three decades (Thorne patented it in 1880, and the successor company appeared in business directories until at least 1918.
Imagine that it is the mid 1880s and you are responsible for a printing establishment. For more than 400 years, metal type has dominated printing (with some competition from lithography in recent years).
Metal type is the basis of your shop and your life. At the same time, type has always been an expensive, precious commodity.
Composition – typesetting – by hand is even more expensive. Making type more cheaply is something you can’t do – that’s the typefounders’ business. But setting type more cheaply is something that you’d very much like to be able to do in your own shop.
In such an environment, the obvious thing you need is a machine to set type.
The Thorne was just such a machine. It let you set type from a keyboard. It assisted in the justification of lines, Perhaps most importantly, it automated the tedious distribution of type for re-use after printing.
It was compact, probably quiet (I suspect that no one in living memory has heard one operate), and would have fit well into any composing room.
It even had sophisticated keyboard features for entering entire words simultaneously which have not been matched even by computers today.
As the Unitype selling agents Wood & Nathan Co. said in 1910, it “does not compel the printer to take up methods which are foreign to his training, but with cheap type and type of foundry excellence it adds its power of speedy composition without disorganizing the methods of the composing room.”
Read on via Thorne / Simplex / Unitype