Newspaper bosses kept it in the family

After my first trip to the print works Peter began to take me there on a regular basis and I got to know not just the printers and journalists but also the directors.

What had begun in the 19th century, as a publishing company, Woodall, Minshall and Thomas, at Caxton Press in Oswestry, and later became North Wales Newspapers, was by now basically owned by the Thomas family with Eric Thomas as chairman and Robbie Thomas, his cousin if I remember rightly, as vice-chairman and editorial director.

In fact the Woodall and Minshall families had not been involved in the company, which continued to bear their name, since 1905.

This notice appeared in the London Gazette in April 1906

William Thomas’s son Rowland later took on the business and Eric Thomas was his son.

The original printing firm was also the 1840s publisher of the Oswestry and Border Counties Advertizer, which at that time was basically just a railway timetable. Oddly the only other reference I can find to Charles Penrhyn Gasquoine is as the author of a book about the history of the Cambrian Railway.

The BCA later became a proper newspaper and in 1920 the company launched the Wrexham Leader, the weekly paper my father remembers from his home town, he was five when it was launched.

The reason I mention all this is because from 1967 until 1972 this was the firm I relied on for my weekly wage and it is always good to know who your bosses are. It isn’t, after all, just us and them as employers and workers rely on each other for their 9.

They may not have realised it at the time but it was the way they dealt directly with their employees that put me on the path to socialism. They treated the whole set-up as a type of family. Not that such a relationship is always good for everyone.

Maybe if they had known at the time the direction I was taking they might not have welcomed me back with open arms five years later. Then again that’s a story for the future.

One thing that did draw my attention at the time was the relationship between journalists and printers on a personal level and the difference when it came down to union matters between the print unions and the NUJ.

I have always got on with my print colleagues wherever I worked in the UK, Australia and Oman. At the same time it was my belief that when it came to the crunch the unions should unite if necessary to ensure employers did not take advantage.

I won’t talk any more about relations between the company and employees at this stage of the narrative because I only saw it first hand occasionally as I did not visit the works more than once a week and sometimes less.

I was taking a deeper interest in politics, not so much between the current political parties as the ideals behind the people involved.

This was the time when Dr Ernesto Rafael ‘Che’ Guevara de la Serna (sometimes Lynch after hisfather) had recently made the news again having dropped out of sight in 1965 when he cut all ties with the Castro government and left Cuba.

The reason he was in the news again was because he had been captured and executed in Bolivia where he had been leading a movement to oust the government.

Bolivian Army officers and possible CIA personnel displaying the body of Che Guevara.

Rather than indulge in the new 60s wave of turning him into an icon I was more interested in finding out what had driven him to leave the safety of a cushy government job in Cuba with his compadre Fidel Castro to face death in Bolivia as a move towards world socialism.

This is why I took up a study of 19th century workers movements against different forms of government “repression”.

This included Marx and Engels’ studies of the working class in the first half of the 1800s; the Chartist Movement of the mid-19th century; the Rebecca Riots in Wales; and the Swing Riots mainly based in the agricultural belt reaching from Devon to East Anglia.

Unlike most people who claim to have read all of Marx and Lenin in their 20s I am still studying these works and the writings of the Webbs, Trotsky, Keir Hardie and others.

Never had time for Uncle Jo.

The point is the more I study the past the angrier I get with the way we have all been treated by our “betters”.

Many people are ultra-left in their teens and 20s and gradually drift towards the centre and across to the varying levels of the right wing.

Me, I started off left of centre and have drifted back and forth between there and left of left.

It’s good to let go at times.

Next time: All at sea.

Published by Robin

I'm a retired journalist who still has stories to tell. This seems to be a good place to tell them.

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