Neville James – 13th June 1944 – 24th July 2017
by Peter Butterworth
In the year 2000, there was an advertisement in our “PENRITH PRESS” local newspaper, letting the people of Penrith know that a “Printing Museum” was planned, and was to be located in the grounds of the PENRITH PACEWAY.
The originator of this Museum, was ALAN CONNELL, and he was asking for volunteers, or anybody interested in the proposed Museum, to visit him at the Paceway.
I was very interested, having a background in Letterpress Printing, so I rang and made an appointment to visit Alan at the "temporary site".
When I was directed by the Paceway, to Alan’s site, I was amazed to find he was situated in a shed at the back of the Paceway. I was introduced to Alan, and also to Neville James, who was conscripted to refurbishing, and rebuilding a Linotype machine. I think it was a Model 5, circa 1908, machine, and it was laying around the shed in a myriad of pieces, all waiting to be cleaned and re-assembled Neville painstakingly cleaned and re-assembled every part of this Linotype machine, which was a herculean task.
He loving restored the Linotype to its’ original state, and managed to get it to work reasonably well, which was no mean feat, seeing how ancient this machine actually was.
The Linotype machine took pride of place in our Penrith Museum of Printing, which was officially opened on 2nd June 2001, and the population of Penrith marvelled at this intricate machine, and the fact that it was driven, only by belts, pulley and cams, with no electrical parts on it, except for the typesetters light. Neville nurtured this machine for a great many years, till ill-health made him retire.
In that time, as well as running and maintaining, and demonstrating the linotype machine, he was also our Museum’s President, and his lovely wife, Pam, was our secretary.
He ran a good and efficient Museum, and Pam was a wizard with the paper work of the Museum, in her secretary role.
It was decided that we desperately needed dust covers for all of the machines at the museum, so Neville and Pam sourced the materials needed, which were a good quality sail making material. Pam and Neville measured and made templates for the machinery covers, and Pam sewed a cover for each machine, complete with a sewn-on plaque on each cover, with the name of the machine printed on.
Neville and I worked quite often together, with just the two of us on duty, and Nev. Was so strict on neatness and tidiness, and each Saturday morning, the machines would be uncovered for the days Museum to be opened, and the covers had to be folded nicely and placed behind the machine.
At the end of the day, precisely fifteen minutes before closing time (provided no visitors were still on site), Nev. And I would put all the covers back on the machines to keep the dust out. But, Neville, being the tidy and fastidious person that he was, insisted that all covers had to be put back on, in the right and neat way, with ALL name plaques to be centred, on the front of the machine and Parallel to the floor.
People may have thought this was a bit too rigid, BUT NO, it made the museum look so much more professional, and neat, and LOVED!!!
Nev was also very fussy about GETTING IT RIGHT!! I remember every year, at the winter solstice, I would tell Nev that “today is the shortest day”, to which Nev would reply, “NO, it is the shortest day and the longest night”.
Nev was a truly wonderful, and caring man, and a real asset to our Museum, and he looked after his “baby”, the linotype, so passionately, that, after his passing, in July, 2017, the old Linotype was thereby named the “NEVILLE”, in Neville’s honour, and he will always be remembered as a stalwart of our Penrith Museum of Printing.