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Thursday, 29 March 2012

Living History

We've just completed a very successful Living History week for local schools.  Two groups from Walkerburn and St Ronan's Schools travelled back in time to find out about life as an apprentice in late Victorian Innerleithen.  Mr Smail, who was conspicuous by his absence on the golf course, was looking for new apprentices for both the Machine Room and the Case Room and a new Office assistant.  Miss Mays tested their spelling and hand writing, Mr Murray introduced the potential apprentices to the mysteries of the Case Room and Mr MacGregor insisted that only someone who'd had porridge for breakfast would survive in the Machine Room and at the same time harassed Mr Hope the journeyman printer.  Auld Davie the yardman was rarely seen with a brush in his hand but kept interrupting events with messages from impatient customers.  In the Office Mr Stephenson arrived to purchase his ticket to South Africa (or should that be the Cape Colony) and regaled the potential apprentices with tales of life in the sunshine.

At the end of the morning Mrs Harrison returned the children to the 21st century.  Judging by their faces all had a thoroughly enjoyable time and we'd like to think that they learnt something as well.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Easter Egg Hunt

I've just spent a happy morning printing the letters that spell out "EASTER EGG" ready for our Ester Egg Hunt at the beginning of next month.  For four days over the Easter Weekend this will be an additional attraction for children during our normal tours of the Printing Works.  The letters will be on display for those that look carefully and any youngster locate them all will be rewarded with an Easter Egg.  Be warned some of the printed cards may be replaced with pieces of wooden type.

Monday, 12 March 2012

A New Season

A definite touch of spring in the air today and another reminder that Smail's will be re-opening shortly.

Falcon Printing press
Last week Rachel ran a very effective Collections Care workshop for the volunteers who work on al the historic items that go to make the Printing Works as we know it.  It is not just the paper records that need care the Machine Room threw up a very interesting conundrum over the winter.  The Falcon press has an early attempt to automate paper handling.  Part of which is a bellows which provides a stream of air to separate the sheets of paper as they are picked up by suckers.  The bellows are made of wood and leather and the leather rubs on a part of the press wearing a hole.  It is probably been doing this for many years - a possible design fault from the start - but the result is much less reliable paper pick up.  If we want to continue to demonstrate this press the damage needs to be repaired.  How best can we achieve this, particularly as the Trust prefers conservation to restoration.

There was another landmark today.  Mrs Harrison, Miss Mayes the Clerkess, Mr Murray the Compositor, Mr McGregor the Printer, Tony Hope the Printer's Apprentice, Mr Stephenson from South Africa and Davy the  Yardman met at a local coffee shop to discuss the attendance at the Printing Works next week of a number of potential apprentices.  They will be coming from St Ronans and Walkerburn Schools. Yes it is living History Week again.  There are no prizes for working out who is behind some of these people although I understand that Mr Stephenson always sets Mrs Harrison's heart a flutter.  At least this year Mr Stephenson and Davy the Yardman won't disappear to Melrose Sports one day.

A week later we all meet for this year's Team Talk before the Smail's opens its doors to the public once more.

We open for the  new season on Sunday, 1 April and should close again on Monday 29 October.  The next special event in the calendar is the Easter Egg hunt a week after we re-open.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

These Boots aren't Made for Walking

This year's Living History week is happening later this month before the Printing Works opens for the season.  We've got two groups coming form both St Ronan's and Walkerburn Schools; four sessions in total.  We'll let you know how these go.

Davie the yardman needed a better pair of boots and I've just got back from Coldstream with a pair of British Army Ammunition Boots thus fulfilling a frustrated childhood wish to be allowed a pair of tackety boots.  These weigh a ton and are enormous and I'll need a thick foam insole and two pairs of socks to keep them on - walking any distance is quite out of the question.  Perhaps they're a bit shiny as well.

There was a piece in Monday's Times about attitudes to independence in the Scottish Borders with a number of interviews from Coldstream, including one from one of the owners of Walk This Way.  They sell all sorts of millitaria and have a re-creation of a WWII bunker in their basement not the sort of shop I'd have expected in Coldstream High Street.  Very helpful and a fruitful trip to Coldstream.