When I started work at The Neidpath Press at the beginning of 1936, Allan Smyth was in his eightieth year. He was regarded as ‘The Manager’ whilst the proprietor-editor was J. K. Robertson, a native of Dundee, who had acquired the business in 1935 from John Parmley and W. G. Mitchell who had succeeded Allan Smyth as proprietors in November 1931. 

As the junior apprentice compositor my work began at seven o’clock in the morning and before anyone arrived at eight, lit the coal fire in the office and the coke fires in the composing and machine rooms.  I also had to sweep the office floor and the stairway leading to the front door. When returning at nine o'clock I worked alongside Allan Smyth as he checked the galley-proofs of the type produced for the newspaper and general commercial work and stood by his side to read aloud from the original copy as he checked the typeset matter for accuracy.

Mid-morning my absorbing work began: learning the craft of typography and composition.  I was allotted a composing frame as 'my station' and given two setting-sticks for my use.[photo (8)] The hours of the day would quickly pass as did the enjoyable weeks and years until that momentous day I had to leave them on my typecase to answer the call to The Colours of my local Battalion of the 8th Royal Scots on the 1st September 1939. My short years at The Neidpath Press were amongst the happiest working days I ever spent.

 
 

Reflecting back to the Composing Room of 1936, I recall little had changed over the years from Caxton's principles of moveable type he had brought from Bruges in 1470s: hand composing single letters cast from individual moulds produced in a typefoundry to form words in a line of type.  To add to the sense of antiquity there were still type faces, many in dusty typecases, which Allan Smyth had bought when he and his partner set up the firm in Wallace’s engineering workshop in the late 1870s. Diagrams show Upper and Lower Case layout. [12] [Photo 13]

 
 
 

Examples of these type founts and the style of layout much in fashion at the turn of the century can be seen in the work produced by students attending Allan Smyth's printing class in The Neidpath Press which was organised as part of the Peebles Evening Continuation Classes. A catalogue of the work produce is available for the year 1910-11 and lists members of the class which included the future editor of the Peeblesshire News and the Chief Reporter of the Peeblesshire Advertiser, William Kerr and Frank Bain.  The others in the class are from well-known families in Peebles.

 

 
 
   

Peebles Evening Continuation Classes

Session 1910-11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wilfred McGill

 
Andrew Shortreed
 
   

 

 

 

James Ballantyne

 
 

 

 

 

 

Frank Bain

 
 

Wilfred McGill

 

 

 
 
William Kerr
 
 
William Kerr
 
 
Andrew Shortreed
 
 
William Kerr
 
 
Frank Bain
 

 

     

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