Working alone at the Holywell office of the Flintshire Leader had its good points and its bad points.
In many ways I have always had an independent streak. I prefer to control my own life.
Take transport, for instance. I hate going anywhere by train or bus because it makes me reliant on other people: the driver and whoever sets the timetable.
In a perfect world there should be a timetable that gets me from A at the time I want to leave and gets me to B at the time I want to be there.
If the taxi driver who would take me to A (train station) is late then it only works if the train driver is also late. That, of course, provides its own problems as I wouldn’t get to B at the time I need to be there.
I prefer, and have always preferred, to rely on my own transport. That way if I am late the only one to blame is myself.
It might sound paranoid but it does make sense.
I know how long, under normal conditions, it takes to get from A to B. I then allow for any adverse conditions on the way and am reasonably certain I will arrive at B in plenty of time to park, unwind and then get to ny final destination at the given time.
It has tended to work over the years apart from the occasional glitch but I put that down to old age these days.
When I was at school a frequent comment on my term reports was: Robin needs a deadline to work to and if he doesn’t have one he tends to create an artificial one.
They made it sound like a bad thing – but it wasn’t.
My time spent working out of the Mold office with a senior reporter began as a weekly event but then fell to every other week; one week in three; and eventually just an occasional trip over if there was something happening which would benefit my journalistic training.
The trips to head office and the printing works remained on a regular basis, however. The only times I didn’t go while working for Peter Leaney were when I was on holiday or Peter was on holiday. Graham, his deputy, preferred to go alone when he was in charge.
It was no skin off my nose.
Those visits to Oswestry broadened my knowledge beyond the realms of the district office. It also gave me an opportunity to meet people from other parts of the company’s area.
Naturally I used to see the directors around, mainly Eric and his cousin Robbie, and they would sometimes stop to chat. It was, after all, a family firm and at times “Pater and Mater” would talk to the younger children.
I did get on very well with a senior director, Tom, I think his surname was Roberts, and years later that friendship paid off (yet another story).
What was good that I met journalists from some of the other papers, such as the Border Counties Advertizer, as well as the weekly sub-editors who were based at Oswestry. I also met Brian Barratt, who edited a farming newspaper, and he was to play a major part in my life very soon.
Being on my own at Holywell this infrequent contact with journalists meant I didn’t know much about the way our union, the NUJ, worked within the company.
I did at times meet people on other papers, not ours, with the odd Daily Post reporter popping over if there was a good story going on.
This meant my best source for unionism was with one or two of the subs who showed a keener interest and, of course, the print unions, they were a good source of union rights and the working man.
In all honesty, at that time I found the provincial NUJ to be a little bit socialist and a little bit more liberal. I think some of them might have preferred a National Association of Journalists to a union.
With little in the way of direct sources for considering the working men’s rights (in all honesty it was more men than women in those days) I turned to my old friends – books.
Nowadays they tell you that if you want to find something out then hit the internet.
As it happens reading an easily selected number of books on the subject you are interested in is often less time-consuming than wading through the 10 million hits you get when you type in “labour” or “workers’ rights” on Google.
I soon realised the best place to start was the first half of the 19th century at the time of the Chartists, the Rebecca Riots, Captain Swing and Peterloo.
Clearly much of this was at a time when workers in this country were often treated little better than the slaves who had only recently gained their freedom.
Very soon my research went in two directions – both, as it happened, linked to Engels and Marx.
One stream followed the Chartists and the early working men’s associations and the route taken by suffragists (one arm of the women’s suffrage movement); the other took the path of the Rebecca Rioters and the followers of Captain Swing, a path preferred by Pankhurst’s more militant suffragettes.
Frierich Engels made a study of the conditions of the working class in England and later, in collaboration with Karl Marx produced an outline manifesto for the Communist Party.
Although it was revolutionary at the time it was not like much of Marx’s later works which appeared to indicate that a mass revolt by the working classes throughout the world was the only way to gain workers’rights.
Engels was more interested in other ways of workers getting involved in the ownership of that produced by their own hands.
If you only picked one line of thought you have to wonder which of the two you would follow.
I know I had a lot more reading to do. At the time I didn’t really know how little time I had before I would have to decide which path to take.