Page 9 - April 2014
P. 9

Peter Criddle (6562)

was 2s. a week; for the second six months         had accumulated, not always accidentally, I fear.
3s. a week; second year 4s., third year 5s.,
fourth year 6s., fiŌh year 7s., sixth year 9s. A   AŌer some EgberƟan experiences and a
journeyman's wage was 6d. an hour; 25s for        few Ɵmes on the carpet, as was the lot of
fiŌy hours, 26s. for fiŌy-two hours. We worked      apprenƟces in those days, I seƩled down and
fiŌy hours, and someƟmes, when I grew a            learnt how to use a sƟck,5 and became as good
liƩle older, I did surrepƟƟous over-Ɵme.          a display comp as the others nothing special.

At first, of course, I was the 'devil' in the      During the summer months iƟnerant comps
machine-room, and aŌer learning the               would call in on us, some for a whip-round to
mysteries of washing-up and the art of            help them on their way from London to Bungay
becoming daubed with a variety of oily inks       or Beecles; some selling books, seƫng-rules,
and sƟnking of paraffin and lye,1 I learnt to use   sƟcks, type-gauges, etc. It was said that some
a lumbering treadle platen2 without guards,       of these comps would augment their pay
now and again catching my fingers, without         wherever they worked by selling tea, matches,
serious injury, for the platen seemed to be on    collar-studs or bootlaces, or other knick-knacks.
springs, or was so loosely fiƩed that a slight
squeeze was almost impossible. I did hurt my      During my apprenƟceship I had learnt but
knee occasionally if I kept my leg too straight,  vaguely about a Society for Compositors, but
as then it got a bang on some underpart of        had never been told its objects, and from the
the machine as the treadle reached its highest    aƫtude of our journeymen it seemed to be
point. Later I was put on a power platen,         something to be wary of. And so I bestowed
with a guard, run by a pulley belt. I also ran    liƩle thought on the maƩer. I had never met
errands, faster than the errand-boy, assisted     a Society man. And so I went forth with all
one of the minders in melƟng gelaƟne and          the effrontery of ignorance. When the Ɵme
moulding rollers, and helped a comp in            came I reminded my boss—a kindly man to
making stereos.3 These two operaƟons were         others, and more so, in a way, to himself—that
done in a large and sƟnking cellar, which was     my term of servitude had expired. He, with
also a hide-out when we boys were Ɵred of         jock ingenuousness, expressed surprise that
work or wanted a spree.                           the Ɵme had flown so fast and that I had
                                                  grown to man's stature so quickly, and said
I was, at first, fascinated with the working of    that he would keep me on and pay me £1 per
the flat-bed machines: to see the paper fed        week. On my objecƟng and poinƟng out that
and go round the cylinders and to be taken off     journeymen were paid 25s., he told me I was
by the flyers, almost unerringly, and I certainly  not a journeyman, but an improver—'Was there
got a thrill when I was allowed to feed one,      not room for improvement?' he said. I agreed
which I did ever so nervously at first. One of     with that as sincerely then as I do now, but I
the machines had no flyers, the printed sheets     also thought I had been deceived. I have oŌen
being taken off the cylinder by hand.              considered his words, someƟmes with benefit,
                                                  as I did when the first proof of the maƩer I had
AŌer about a year of this I was posted upstairs   set for the Clacton Times was the subject of an
to the composing room. As was the case in the     inquest by the boss and the clicker.'
machine room so here there were as many
apprenƟces as journeymen, someƟmes more,          Disgruntled with my pay, and anxious to leave
as journeymen were occasionally stood off          home—I had a good home but wanted to be
when work was slack. They were the Ɵmes for       independent—I took the first job offered, which
all to join in sorƟng the huge pile of pie4 that  was at Clacton-On-Sea, where the Clacton
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