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NAAS - Leinster Leader printing developments - 1957

Leinster Leader 29 March 2007


Men and machines – behind the scenes at the Leader

by

LIAM KENNY


The function of a paper is, to a large extent, to hold a mirror up to the community which it serves.  Indeed a paper spends a great deal of its energies reporting on the interests of every other entity in its locality but rarely turns the spotlight to its own business initiatives.  The Leinster Leader issue of 30 March 1957 could well be excused then for blowing its own trumpet to celebrate the introduction of an entirely new printing plant which positioned the Kildare paper at the forefront of print technology.

The full page feature accompanied by photographs and advertising endorsements from suppliers conveyed great pride in the company’s modernity: ‘ The Leinster Leader has continuously kept abreast of modern techniques in all branches of the printing trade and we recently installed a number of new machines which have increased output.’  Despite such investment in machinery the writer was quick to point out that the human touch was still to the fore in the Leader’s operation: ‘In other industries the complaint is heard that the machines are ousting the man. This has not occurred in our business where more workers are employed than ever in eighty years of the Leinster Leader.’

The feature introduces Leader readers to the printing staff with their new machines. We learn that an incredibly complex-looking machine called an Intertype setting machine could set 1,500 words of metal type in an hour in the hands of typesetter Charlie Singleton who had served his apprenticeship with the paper and ‘ whose son is now learning the trade.’  Another invention to arrive in the Leader works was the Monotype keyboards used for setting commercial printing such as books and magazines. Featured at the keyboards were Michael Kane and Sean Whelan who, showing the company’s investment in man as well as machine, had been sent to the ‘Monotype school in London for special tuition in the operation of the machine.’

The biggest piece of hardware on the works floor was the giant Cossor machine on which the Leinster Leader was printed weekly. The operator was identified as Dan Ryan who ‘has been with the Leader for 25 years and, is assisted by George Byrne, an apprentice.’

And in a hint that commuting to work is not a modern phenomenon the feature introduces typesetter Joe Kavanagh who, we are told, ‘resides in Dublin and travels to and from Naas daily.’

At the end of the book printing process was the bindery department, the only section within the printing trade where there was a female input at the time. A Brehmer sewing machine was being operated by Margaret Loughran, a native of Naas, under the supervision of veteran printer Owen Hegarty who hailed from Derry. Another Leader old-timer mentioned was Denis Purcell who had been with the firm for almost 40 years (i.e. since 1917 or so) and who was featured operating the new Albert printing machine described as ‘one of the most modern printing machines in the world.’

The final stage of production for books and journals was the fearsome looking guillotine machine which could slice through reams of paper.  The operator of this contraption was Liam Herbert. The description of the guillotine process explained that ‘the operator is protected from the automatically descending knife by an arm which pushes him out of range’!

On that reassuring note the Leinster Leader staff members of 1957 displayed their new inventory of equipment to a readership which had remained loyal since the paper first published in 1880.  Today, the premises at South Main Street, Naas, continues to be the heart of the Leader operation with the firm, despite many changes in personnel and technology, occupying the same business address for 127 years.

Compiled by Liam Kenny from the rich resource of the Leinster Leader files, Local History Dept., Kildare County Library. Series No.9.

 

The last instalment from Liam Kenny's Leinster Leader column for March 2007 on developments in printing at the 'Leader Offices.' Our thanks to Liam


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