Page 8 - April 2014
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Paul Evett: Compositor pt.1

PAUL EVETT was born at St Peters, Jersey, in     with the important mid-nineteenth- century
1886, the son of a baƩery sergeant-major in      autobiography of C. M. Smith, The Working
the Royal ArƟllery. The family later moved       Man's Way in the World, 1853 (republished
to Dukinfield, Cheshire, where he aƩended         1917).
school to the age of eleven, leaving to work in
a rope-and-twine factory. Having acquired an     My first introducƟon to the prinƟng industry
interest in prinƟng, he was apprenƟced to a      was in Stalybridge, Cheshire, in 1898 when I
prinƟng firm in Colchester for six years, and on  was about twelve and a half years old. We lived
becoming a journeyman compositor in 1906         in Dukinfield. I had leŌ school about twelve
he began to move about southern England          months before and had been working in a
in search of experience and variety of scene.    rope-and-twine factory. The reason for leaving
The extract describes his progress up to 1912,   school at so early an age was that I had reached
by which Ɵme he was becoming an acƟve            the fourth standard and thus qualified to enter
member of the Typographical AssociaƟon           an examinaƟon enƟtling me to leave school
and was involved in a strike in Newport,         and take up full-Ɵme employment. I passed this
Monmouthshire in 1911 over the employment        examinaƟon. I might, menƟon that I am slightly
of a woman monotype-operator. AŌer the           lame, one leg being considerably smaller and
war he became an assistant reader and took a     a liƩle shorter than the other, due to infanƟle
correspondence course from Ruskin College,       paralysis, though in other respects I was then
Oxford, in English grammar; aŌer a spell of      quite healthy and robust. The work in the
unemployment in the early 1930s, he became       rope-and-twine factory was proving somewhat
the reader of the Law Times and £or the          too strenuous for me, for I had to run along the
Financial Times unƟl 1940.                       length of the rope-walk holding the ends of the
                                                 newly made twine (or bant, as it was locally
The extract is an interesƟng comment on          called), while my gaffer turned the frame on
the prinƟng trade at the beginning of the        which the skeins were wound at a speed to suit
century. Although a long-unionised industry,     himself rather than out of consideraƟon for my
only 40 per cent of printers were trade          lack of running power ... Ever since a visit to
unionists in 1911, and outside the great         a Stalybridge printer I had occupied my spare
ciƟes the union had limited influence. The        Ɵme in cuƫng type from cork and rubber,
Typographical AssociaƟon was trying to           and bought myself a liƩle rubber-type-set and
enforce the rule that there should not be        played about with these with very poor results,
more than three compositors' apprenƟces in       even by my own uninformed standards. I would
any shop, however large, and for this reason     put oil on newspaper pictures and obtain
EveƩ, like many others, learned his trade        dim transfers therefrom. These occupaƟons
in non-union shops in country towns. His         induced my parents to apprenƟce me to a
memoir also illustrates the slow adopƟon of      printer. We had now moved to Colchester and I
recent mechanical invenƟons—for example,         was bound apprenƟce to Trinity PrinƟng Works,
the linotype machine which had come to           for six years, to learn the art and mystery of the
England in 1889, though EveƩ did not see         trade, and to keep out of taverns and houses of
one unƟl 1907. The extract may be compared       ill-repute, etc. The pay for the first six months

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