- Quote: ‘I went to work for the Financial Times (FT) during 1978-89. It was a period of time that was to be the end of Hot Metal’
Andrew Atkinson talks to Los Altos, Orihuela based Frank Stanhope about his memories as a Linotype maintenance engineer at the Financial Times in Fleet Street in Part 2 of a Leader Exclusive.
AFTER working in Libya, where he was under siege during a Revolution, Frank returned to the UK working in the newspaper publishing industry as a maintenance engineer of Linotype machines in Liverpool.
“After working at the Liverpool Echo I joined a company in Beckenham, Kent, to help build and maintain the Russian equivalent of a Linotype.
“I went to Algeria to install a machine. One morning going to the press I passed a Synagogue – with Army soldiers outside.
“I never did find out what was happening, until I returned to the UK. It was 1972, the year Israeli athletes were killed at the Olympics,” recalled Frank.
“I later joined an American Printing company Wolf Composition, setting up in Watford, mainly printing books.
“They flew over seven machines fully built – a section of the first floor had to be removed – rig-up block and tackle and winch them up. That was some job!
“It was during the time a three day working week came into play. We had to install a generator to work a full week – and it was my job to turn it on, the days we had no power,” said Frank.
He then found himself in Fleet Street: “It wasn’t planned, but I went from one good job to another, every couple of years.
“In Fleet Street I was working alongside colleagues publishing the Sunday Times and The Guardian, aged 34, a time I took up playing golf.
“After a few years The Guardian moved premises and of the 16 engineers covering the two papers, seven went to work for The Guardian.
“We stripped a machine down to be put in the London Museum. On the front of the machine all the engineers and operators names who had worked on the machine were on it.
“I then went to work for the Financial Times (FT) during 1978-89. It was a period of time that was to be the end of Hot Metal.
“It was a good place to work, plenty of memorable times, notably with the FT Golfing Society,” said Frank.
Linotype compositors used molten lead casts, typeset into solid slug to produce newspaper page editions.
“The hot metal days were numbered, with Wapping and Rupert Murdoch. In 1988 the very last hot metal front page – Flong – was on Saturday, January 9th.
“Everyone there was given a photo copy of the very first Financial Times, Monday, February 13th, 1888.
“I spent most of 1988 scrapping the machines – after 34 years of working on hot metal machines,” said Frank, 80.
The FT was launched as the London Financial Guide in 1888, renaming itself the Financial Times. In 1893 the FT began printing on light pink paper, to distinguish it from the similarly named Financial News.
After 57 years of rivalry the Financial Times and the Financial News merged in 1945.
In 1949, the FT introduced a policy, then most unusual in Fleet Street, of direct recruitment of new university graduates, mainly from Oxbridge, as its trainee journalists.
Many had distinguished careers, including leading British economist Andrew Shonfield; Sir William Rees-Mogg and future Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson.
The paper grew in size, readership and international coverage, becoming a global newspaper, printed in 22 locations with five international editions to serve the UK, continental Europe, the U.S., Asia and the Middle East.
In 1998 the FT became the first UK-based newspaper to sell more copies internationally, than within the UK.
“As I left Fleet Street – and hot metal – I worked with Wolf drills and hammers in New Modern, the repairing service department. After nine months it closed and was made redundant. I then maintained Label Print machines.
“I moved back up north to Colwyn Bay, spending the last eight years of my working life building and maintaining Label printers.
“One of the best jobs I did was installing a machine in Bowling Green, Kentucky, USA.
“After retiring in 2006 I moved to Spain and now enjoying life in Los Altos, Dream Hills II in Orihuela,” said Manchester born Frank.
Pearson sold the Financial Times Group to Nikkei, Inc. for £844 million (US$1.32 billion) in 2015.