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There are many memoris that I either witnessed or had told to me. One I had told to me involved one Brian Ellis, comp apprentice working at the time with Len Fairbrother when I returned to Staples in 1966. For some reason I have now forgotten, a hole was cut in the floor adjacent to Len's/Brian's frame and, I believe if memory serves me right, close to wall. Beneath this hole was Nell Blackman's tea kitchen. In his usual arsing about, Brian Ellis managed to fall through the said hole. His fall was broken by a flooring beam running across so he caught the full impact on his privates and never reached the floor below. Down below an irate Nell Blackman fearing all sorts of intrusion into her domain and personal safety was to be seen and heard leaping up and down armed with the broom she kept there encouraging one Brian Ellis to get out of her kitchen. Apparently all was hilarious.

Another incident that comes to mind was the night of the great fire. That night I believe I was working with just Peter Allard in the Comp Room. Somewhere in the premises Mac the general purposes sweeper-upper/general cum all was going about his business, whilst in the Machine Room one or two presses were churning out the production. Pete Allard and I sat down for our meal break and everything seemed quiet and peaceful. Except every now and then we became aware of what sounded like Mac out in the boiler room breaking up old bits of wood to throw on the big old coke boiler that supplied the central heating and hot water. We thought nothing of this initially but a little later the sounds were becoming louder and more frequent. By now we had become alarmed enough to go and have a look. Pushing open the door we were almost thrown back by the heat of the raging fire from within the boiler room. Beating a hasty retreat I think it was Pete Allard who shot off to phone for the Fire Brigade. Mac appeared from wherever and a rather old rubber hose pipe was fitted to an outside tap and we vainly tried to dampen the inferno. I also remember I then dashed back into the Comp room and shot up the steps to the old wash room that overlooked the outside view to the boiler house. The heat inside here was quite considerable so it was back downstairs and by this time the Fire Brigade turned up and got things under control. Hose pipes and water everywhere. It was all quite heart thumping stuff and we got wet and filthy but it did make the night a bit different from the ordinary. I do remember the management were so pleased with our combined efforts that we got a £10 gift for our troubles.

One of the funniest things we ever did as apprentices was when the Comp Room had the layout re-arranged which meant moving radiators and the like. This caused several round holes, the size of industrial central heating pipes, to be visible in the floor. By laying down and looking down we could see immediately below was a large 'table' in that part of the Bindery where the charming ladies were engaged in collation of printed sections into books. It was my apprentice running mate Ian Sherwood who caught one of the largest indoor spiders I had ever seen. Naturally it had rolled itself into a decent sized ball when he tickled it with a suitable object. Over to the hole in the floor it was taken and just as gently it was dropped down through the hole to the collating table below. For a second or two there was quietness then came a succession of bloodcurdling screams from a multitude of voices as the pandemonium broke out below. It was hilarious. I seem to remember there was some sort of enquiry into these going ons which happened some time back in the early 1950s.

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It was probably about 4 years ago that I received a request to provide a reference for Syd. The print trade being what it is, had seen a lot of people look outside it for employment. Syd was applying to become a carer and I hope my return of the form showing complete faith in his ability and honesty, helped him in securing the job. For secure it he did and worked at times in the Watts Arms Houses in, I am advised, a very professional way.

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