Saturday, February 22, 2020
SATURDAY MORNING MEMORIES OF A BRIGG NEWSPAPER REPORTER - PART ONE
The shopping preferences of Brigg residents and visitors from surrounding communities could be observed 40 years ago from the reporters' lofty perch above the front entrance to the Lincolnshire & South Humberside Times weekly newspaper offices at 57 Wrawby Street. It gave them a panoramic view of everyday life as people passed by.
The A18 was still running through the town centre in the early 1980s, with traffic wardens out and about, on foot, to deter drivers from parking on the yellow lines outside shops and hampering the free flow of vehicles.
However, motorists continued to draw up near Bowen's to pop in for their fresh-bread order or a bag of delicious cakes.
The town's first gaming arcade was proving popular with the younger element, and there were many more stalls on the Saturday market 40 years ago than there are today. The Queen's Arms pub was serving up pints on Wrawby Street, and Woolworth's store was the town's largest although it was nearing the end of the line.
Editorial staff at the Times took turns in covering the 9am to noon Saturday morning shift - by far the easiest of the week.
This began with a walk across Wrawby Street and the Old Courts Road car park to the Barnard Avenue police station (then relatively new) to pick up details of any overnight crimes - often drink-related due to people enjoying the previous evening a little too much.
So-called Police Calls were a reliable and regular source of news, the information usually being furnished personally by the duty inspector or a senior sergeant, but sometimes by the chief inspector in charge of the Brigg & Barton Sub-Division of the Humberside force.
If the Saturday reporter had covered the previous morning's cases at Brigg Magistrates' Court (since closed and converted to residential use) these would be bashed out using an old typewriter, to appear in the next issue. The paper provided for this purpose was not Basildon Bond, nor even the most basic form of A4; instead you got left over 'crop ends' from the huge rolls of newsprint used by the printing press at the Hull Daily Mail). These were cut roughly to shape and the sheets bundled together with string.
Carbon copies had to be made and kept in case the originals went astray on their long journey to Hull via the Humber Ferry, sometimes involving trains from Barnetby to Habrough and then Habrough to New Holland.
What could possibly go wrong?
The Saturday shift also provided time to write up news gleaned during the two meetings of Glanford Borough Council held in Brigg most Thursdays and including planning, health and housing. Glanford then rented out hundreds of council houses before social landlords appeared on the scene.
A top priority on Saturdays was penning articles for the Farming Notebook column that appeared on one of the inside pages.
This was not too difficult, even if your knowledge of farming was restricted to potato picking while at school, as many press releases arrived from agricultural suppliers as well as farming concerns.
Later in the week these would be supplemented by the widely-read Brigg market prices - reflecting the degree of trade at the stock market (where Tesco's store now stands), cereal sales (from Halmshaw's), Stennett's auction (then located down Manley Gardens) and potatoes, provided by Norman Leaning and staff at the Potato Marketing Board office. Varieties listed included King Edward, Wilja, Desiree and Estima, grown in Wold or warp soil, with demand from buyers described as heavy (in good times) or sometimes hesitant.
Norman, from Scawby Brook, was also the secretary of Brigg & District Servicemen's Club at this time.
Saturday's leisurely mid-morning tea break gave administrative, advertising, photographic and reporting staff an opportunity to bring each other up to date about a wide range of topics planned for the following Friday's edition as it began to take shape.
Brigg Town Clerk, Joseph J. Magrath OBE, sometimes joined us for a Saturday cuppa, having special rights to park his car behind the office, to which access was gained via the brick archway that now leads through to the Exchange Coach House Inn's courtyard development.
Sometimes the Saturday morning reporter would be required to accompany photographer Coun Bryan Robins to cover an event of note in the town or one of the nearby villages.
On one occasion, several members of a Second World War bomber crew returned from Canada to Elsham airfield, where they had served on Lancasters, for a nostalgic reunion. Their story duly appeared on the 'centre spread' called Times Feature Focus.
It was a shame that reporting veteran Edward (Ted) Dodd, by then retired from his post as news editor, was not in the office that morning, as he often was. Being a WW2 ground crew member from RAF Elsham Wold, he would certainly have volunteered to take on this mission! Long after he had left the payroll, Ted continued to work as a reporter, filling in when staff were on holiday or attending residental college courses lasting several months.
Editorial staff had a pool car at their disposal - vehicles allocated in the early 1980s including a T-reg Ford Fiesta (with indifferent manual choke) and later a Mini Metro. If these failed or were in for a service, there was a trusty Bedford van assigned to ever-cheerful Branch Manager, Cliff Hatley. This was the vehicle in which editorial newcomers were expected to undertake a short driving test on local roads to confirm that the company was satisfied with our competence - for insurance purposes.
Saturday being rather a 'slow' shift, it was a good time to top up the Ford Fiesta or Metro's tank at Sass's Monument Garage petrol station (now the site of the hand car-wash). No cash was required, just a signature, as the Times had an account.
Many Saturday stories in the early 1980s were written about Brigg Sugar Factory - then still a major local employer, together with the cycle factory off Bridge Street, However, Spring's preserves factory and Corah's hosiery concern had closed during the previous decade.
To be continued later in Part Two...