ACT Heritage Library Manuscript Collection

HMSS 0269 Engineering Heritage Canberra Oral History Program - Special Projects Series Queanbeyan Age Project

Scope and Content Notes

Call Number

HMSS 0269 Box 3


Engineering Heritage Canberra Oral History Program - Special Projects Series Queanbeyan Age Project

Date Range



0.02m (1 wallet) 

Access Conditions


Copying conditions

with attribution

Related Collections

HMSS 0269 Engineering Heritage Canberra Oral History Program

HMSS 0269 ... Kingston Powerhouse Project  

HMSS 0269 ... Professional Career Series  

HMSS 0269 ... Cotter Water Supply Project 

The Institution of Engineers is actively engaged in documenting the history of engineering in the Australian Capital Territory.

This project is comprised of four oral history interviews recorded May-August 2012 with men associated with the Queanbeyan Age newspaper. The interviewer is Mary-Jill Bellhouse.

The collection consists of

  • 6 cds of interviews
  • 2 cds of photographic portraits of each interviewee taken the day of interview
  • completed permission forms
  • timed summaries of each interview  







Bill Johnson




Permission form;
timed summary (printable pdf)


Peter Neuss




Permission form;
timed summary (printable pdf)


Lial James (Jim) Woods




Permission form;
timed summary (printable pdf)

1956 (but refers to Gale’s period from 1860)

Kevin Hoare .cda 40:34 

Permission form;
timed summary (printable pdf)

responsible for introduction of computer type at the Cairns Post and phasing out heavy metal and linotype machines in 1979. Volunteer at Queanbeyan Printing Museum.


Bill Johnson

Interviewed Wednesday 23 May 2012




Paperboy for 12 months before joining The Age in 1960 at 15 years of age

Describes a typical working day as an apprentice

Trained by correspondence for 12 months then attended Kingston Technical College ACT


As an apprentice, allowed to use the Hand Platen, a hand fed pedal machine

Hands-on experience worked well until he started the Tech course

Then apprenticed as a Hand Compositor

Also worked the Letterpress machines

The Age was a small business so gained experience doing different jobs


Describes the steps in producing the paper.

Used Hot metal press when he first started, then the Linotype machine. Describes the Linotype

Later worked on the Ludlow. Describes why this job was given to him and how the job was done

Paper boys distributed finished product


Describes the tasks allocated to a first year apprentice

Progressed to working machines & setting up & composing

Describes using hot metal and type set on Linotype and compares length of time it took to set and print the paper compared with previous methods


Explains how the handset type worked and notes it was a laborious process


Details again equipment he used as an apprentice

Describes the Ludlow machine and how it worked


New offset machine purchased in 1970

Describes how the three News King units worked and how the paper was assembled for printing, including photos

Describes the camera used and outlines the process for printing photos

Helped with the paste up, photographing, plates and printing


One wage dispute led to a strike and Jim Woods got the paper out on

Another stop work meeting called in response to introduction of Bundy clocks

Time cards made Bill’s job easier for invoicing purposes for commercial work


Describes progression of equipment which provided greater flexibility for larger jobs and the introduction of colour


Jim Woods’ membership of Country Press allowed him to keep up with changes and progress in the industry and the Age followed


Discusses the move to computerised equipment, how jobs changed and how this changed the whole way of producing the paper

Unions intervened when staff multi-tasking

Some staff successfully adapted and learnt new skills, others did not

Took about ten years to settle in properly


Canberra Times owned one third of The Age so some camaraderie between staff and Canberra Times Engineers assisted with introduction of computerised equipment


Tells stories about mishaps with equipment including fire hazards

Recounts the circumstances in 1972-3 of the scoop when a Mirage jet crash near Queanbeyan

Mishaps less of a problem because the paper was regional


Disscusses how The Age assisted other regional papers owned by Jim Woods

Tells story of the old Wharfedale press being operated in the Monaro shopping mall in Canberra and then being sent to Bega


Recounts a few stories that caused some controversy when printed

Describes how the editor decided where each story appeared in the paper, the use of fillers and how the content was trimmed or expanded to fit

Stories also covered personal news, about football and horse racing


Talks about his colleagues, especially those who mentored him

Some interesting stories about various apprentices he worked with


He had offers of other work but preferred to stay with The Age because of the family style of business and close to home

Jim Woods was the owner/manager, but always reasonable, one of the team


Jim Woods assisted with renting a Decentralisation home, then assisted with the purchase of his own home

Talks about how this style of management was unusual, but worked well


Equipment was regularly upgraded which made a difference to the success of the business and its circulation and the business as a

Prior to Offset, the business was limited in what it could produce

Following the introduction of Offset, circulation increased and the paper moved to tri-weekly production

The introduction of computerisation meant more varied and commercial work and a better quality paper


Discusses how customer and community relations and the use of up to date equipment were the main reasons that contributed to the success of the paper

The Age also participated in community events and supported the town’s fundraising activities.


Bill left The Age in 1997 after Rural Press purchased the paper
As Rural Press subsequently let go of the commercial work, Bill started his own business using his local knowledge and relations with previous customers


Prior to Rural Press purchasing the paper, circulation was 5,500, now 2,500.

Describes how circulation is determined

The Age was previously a member of the Audit Bureau of Circulation, with sales mainly through paperboys, subscribers and a mail out list of 1,000

Gives his views about why production has returned to one edition per week, the drop in circulation and the reasons why it may not improve


Provides detailed description of how the Printing Museum was established, its premises and how it is staffed


Lists the equipment housed at the Museum and says more is elsewhere waiting for larger premises to be found

Machines housed at the Museum date from the 1880-1900s up to about 1965

Talks about how donations of machines are sourced and received


Talks about how The Age assisted in printing other regional newspapers owned by Jim Woods, and assisting during times of strikes or when break downs occurred.

Details how the content of these regional papers was delivered to Queanbeyan

Explains camera ready art



Peter Neuss 

Interviewed 26 May 2012.




December 1965 joined the Queanbeyan Age after seeing ad in local paper for apprentice printer.


Five year apprenticeship which included attending Technical College in Canberra in addition to on-the-job training. Describes how his training differed from the Government Printing Office


How he learnt to do specific jobs. Family atmosphere and mentored by people on the job. Recounts Jim Woods experiences of being mentored.


Describes his day as an apprentice at the newspaper office . Hand and machine compositor on Linotype/Ludlow/printing – what that involved. Moved to Linotype after four years.


Explains how a Linotype machine worked.. Required skills were handyman, operator and scholar


The Age was a local business and a personal paper. Local staff and personal local knowledge very important


Talks about colourful characters on the staff and special mentors (Jim Buckley and Bill Johnson).. Story about a table used by Jim Buckley


Speaks in detail about the family-run style of management and personal assistance encouraged staff to become long term employees. Tempted to join The Canberra Times for more money and better facilities but preferred benefits of The Age family style business


Outlines improvements to equipment . Explains how the hot metal press worked and associated health problems for operators. The Age a leader in the industry in country NSW by using the most updated equipment. Describes Jim Woods’ method of purchasing equipment


Describes the types of equipment he used . Hand composing and the Linotype and how that worked. Describes his experiences in operating the Ludlow and how that worked. Offset system of printing – the American News King and colour introduced . As units were added, still setting on the old Linotype equipment . Introduction to computerisation and explains punch tape


Details introduction to computerisation in the 1980’s and 1990’s
Explains what punch tape was. The Age one of the first in country NSW to embrace computerisation. Other country papers, church papers and university papers printed by the Age


Talks about the improvements to equipment after that which included general updates to programs, storage, colour


Describes how the paper looked in the later stages of his career. Tells story about a reader’s comments about the paper’s smaller size. Outlines changes following introduction of the internet and sale to Rural Press . Discusses other reasons why circulation decreased


Some interesting stories printed that maybe should not have been . Story about his mistake on the Linotype and an angry Local Member . Story about apprentice being rejected for employment and becoming apprentice of the year elsewhere. Explained Jim Woods’ unique way of choosing apprentices


Provides detail about Jim Woods’ unique management style based on his own experience as an apprentice – he knew the business from the ground up. Talks about the Age’s reputation as a leader in country NSW. Talks about success stories of apprentices who came to The Age for experience and went on to succeed in careers elsewhere. Describes the family atmosphere of the business and camaraderie of staff


Discusses incidents where strikes delayed the paper and how staff worked together to get the paper out on time


The most significant change over the years was from hot metal to computers . Tells how staff adapted and the extent to which their jobs changed


Memorable occasions provide special news and the paper also contributes to country events in the area. The Age is the 7th oldest paper being produced in NSW. The Age celebrated 100th anniversary in 1960 and received letter from the Queen
The Age recently celebrated the 150th anniversary with letter from the Queen which also acknowledged the Printing Museum


Describes how the concept of the Printing Museum came about and its inception. Talks about how premises were found, adapted and funded. Outlines the experience visitors receive at the Museum and talks about the volunteers who run the Museum


The machines that are housed in the Museum include a very early press similar to the one used by John Gale called the Alexandra. Tells the story about how the Alexandra got its name. Talks about a small pedal machine . The most modern machine is circa 1960


The one thing that contributed to the success of The Age during his career was local news, local interest. Expects The Age will continue as it has 150 years of experience behind it


Final comments

Jim Woods 

Interviewed Wednesday 16 May 2012



Disk 1 of 2




Recounts a brief history of the late John Gale who produced the first issue of the Queanbeyan Age on 15 September 1860

John Gale is considered by history as being responsible for the siting of Canberra near Queanbeyan instead of Dalgety NSW as originally proposed


Tells the story of how the Queanbeyan Age operated under John Gale’s family Details the events leading up to his purchase of The Age in 1956 and tells how he ran the paper from Crookwell until 1958 when made the decision to move his family to Queanbeyan


When Jim took over the business, it was run down, there was no staff morale and the buildings were antiquated

He moved premises and built several extensions later on

Jim bought the business with five staff including a managing editor so Jim decided to bring his two sons into the business as well as a new Linotype operator, Jim Buckley, who was also a competent journalist and who stayed until the business was sold to Rural Press


When Jim Woods took over the business the plant and equipment was inadequate, circulation was 1,300 so he cancelled free subscriptions being given to 200 business owners, not a popular decision then


Describes the kinds of stories the paper began to print regularly, local news

Jim’s philosophy was to give the people the news they wanted

This was different from how the paper was filled when he bought the business


Describes how a paper is funded mainly through advertisements but when he purchased the business no one was sourcing this kind of revenue

Jim’s son Bob began to source advertisements, wrote the ads and took the photos for the paper

Describes how he also funded one staff member’s wages from a new kind of advertising idea which proved to be very popular


Talks about how the paper was improving and circulation increasing

Says it takes ten years to build a paper up and get regular subscribers.


Jim Woods held the position of Managing Editor for 15 years

Frank Nash, a trained journalist joined and covered sports issues and also specifically covered council events which became a major feature of the paper

Local news about weddings, birthdays and obituaries were also popular features


As circulation increased to tri-weekly, Jim employed paper boys to deliver the paper

He had 42 paper boys when the business was sold to Rural Press

Talks about the paper boys and describes how their delivery system worked

Hired apprentices; keen to encourage them as he had been one himself


Says that the equipment he inherited when he bought the business (now on display in the Printing Museum) was very basic

Describes the equipment and tells a story about the Wharfedale


Describes how he went about improving the equipment

Advertising grew and circulation increased


Talks about two good Linotype operators – explains how they worked

Explains how the hot metal worked in the old days

Says he is probably the only man alive who has experience in hand setting, hot metal and computerisation


The paper is going along nicely, increased number of staff and doing more commercial work

Explains how people were encouraged to bring in copy which he would rewrite if necessary

Compares the Canberra Times to the Age in terms of local content printed


Talks about the press that he inherited from the Canberra Times – the American Battle Creek Duplex

This press radically improved the production of work and he tells a story about this press after it went out of production at the Age


Describes how he had an arrangement with Mr Shakespeare who owned the Canberra Times that the Times would not intrude into local Queanbeyan news but when the Times was sold to Fairfax, they introduced a free paper into Queanbeyan in competition with the Age


Tells story about his meeting with the General Manager of Fairfax in Sydney to discuss the free paper and the subsequent offer of funding and advice to ‘tool up’ and compete against the Times


Old machinery had become redundant so Jim ordered three new offset units
He owned and printed several more country newspapers

Tells story about how he liaised with The Australian to deliver the Age to the south coast

When they went to Offset the Battle Creek machine went to the Eden paper


Recounts an interesting story of how the paper content was sent to be printed at the Age via Cooma


Says that he continued using hot metal and eased into Offset, which was a key point in changing the technology of how the paper was printed
The Age was one of the first papers in NSW to go to computerisation
The keyboards cost $20,000 and Linotypes and the Battle Creek were redundant

Staff had to learn new skills

Explains he did not operate the machinery but knew how it worked
Left the offset to his sons and the staff, and explains how they learnt this


Other papers sent staff to the Age to see how it worked

Says that although it was easy to adapt to these changes, breakdowns caused delays and the only person who could repair the machinery was the local Citroen motor mechanic

Always had a spare machine to cover breakdowns


Explains how the new machinery improved circulation

Jim was a long term Member of NSW Country Press

Participated in the Audit Bureau of Circulation and considered taking the paper to five times a week


Computerisation introduced early 1980s which changed the look of the paper again and required staff to further adapt

The hot metal press was obsolete and is now stored in the Printing Museum

Talks briefly about the Printing Museum

Talks about a printer in Perth wanting him to set some lines and a visit from a UK printer encouraged to keep the old machines


End of Disk 1

Disk 2 of 2


Jim explains that even with his wide technical knowledge he did not participate in the actual printing process but kept tight control.


Talks about how he selected his apprentices and encouraged his staff to mentor them and tells stories of some of his apprentices working throughout the world

Recounts how different this was from his apprenticeship

Talks about how he started n the business and his parents initial opposition because of the health risks associated with printing at that time

Tells how he overcame this obstacle and then how, after his indenture, the Linotype was introduced and the health risks dissipated


Explains his daily tasks as an apprentice and talks about the fact that he had no mentors

Took a correspondence course through Technical College in Sydney and explains his teacher’s dedication in helping him by post

Studied in his own time, bought his own materials, but was allowed to practice on the machines at work


Also had a dance band and was a footballer, hockey player, cricketer, tennis player and was Secretary of the local Church, all whilst apprenticed and whilst studying his course through Tech

Once he had passed the course he knew more about the business than the other staff

Was not paid much


Recounts that as the war started he enlisted but his boss didn’t want him to go because he was the only one out of three staff left, the rest had been called up

The local Member of Parliament arranged for him to remain at home as he was needed to set up the papers
His boss at the time at Temora owned four newspapers and he was eventually setting them all up on his own and singlehandedly carried the business for the next four to five years


Explains that in the meantime, his social activities provided him with a lot of valuable and newsworthy local knowledge

When the other staff returned from the war he became journalist for 3 years

Says he has done composing, proof reading, journalism and has been a machinist – he knew the whole process – very valuable skills as it was difficult to get staff after the War and he knew how to Linotype so carried the load


Recounts how he thought about buying a corner store but his boss at Temora offered to purchase a newspaper in partnership

Talks about the process at the time of buying a newspaper

Tells the story of how they purchased Crookwell Gazette which was so run down he had to work 50-60 hourts a week
He worked on the Linotype by himself with only one staff member and took on his first apprentice


Describes the role of his family in the Queanbeyan Age business and how he managed the difference between family and staff


Describes how he set up a ‘superannuation’ scheme for his staff and retained very loyal staff for many years, but the Unions objected


Explains how he acquired Decentralisation (NSW Housing Commission) homes which enabled him to advertise some jobs with accommodation and rented the homes to staff who subsequently remained loyal to him for over 30 years

Says how he later backed the staff at the bank as guarantor to enable them to purchase their own homes


Gives a description of how he started each working day talking to his staff and had a had close relationship with them all

He also knew when machines were not printing, whether they were broken or staff simply not working and describes how he would help out as a hands on manager


Talks about the kinds of stories the paper printed

Says they covered everything that went on in the town

Mentions how he liaised with his Editor, Barry Gilman


Describes his philosophy about the content he provided to his readers

The Age reflected public opinion and was essentially the town’s ‘conscience’

Contributed as much as the Council to local issues and says he refused offers to sit on the council several times due to a potential conflict of interest

The paper assisted clubs, schools, societies and therefore made close contacts which were good for business


Says he worried a few times about printing stories which may have been considered slanderous but sought legal advice and was never sued

Described a few instances where he reported court cases or news about gambling dens and prostitutes

Realises he offended a few people in the course of his work but considered that just part of running a successful newspaper


Described how, towards the end of his career the look of the paper had changed from a broadsheet with the first press to tabloid with Offset

Recounts how computerisation brought another big change which enabled the business to grow further


Says that it takes ten years – including increasing the circulation – from you purchase a paper to bring it to a successful standard

(Sound of next door neighbour lawn mowing for about next 10 mins – through closed doors & windows)

Says he bought the three worst papers in NSW and had a reputation as the ‘fix it man’

His most significant contribution therefore was to improve the Queanbeyan Age with better staff and better machinery and that when the paper was sold he had 32 staff doing 13 different papers.


Recounts in some detail the circumstances under which he sold the Age especially with 3 generations of the family working in the business


Says he has had 66 years working in the newspaper business and is now 98 years old

(Lawn mower starts up again next door)

Talks about the importance of the support from his wife throughout his career


Recounts a day in the life of Jim Woods, how his day started, progressed and ended.

Talks about how the paperboys did the deliveries and how the deliveries to Canberra were dropped at the airport for delivery with the Sydney papers



Kevin Hoare

Interviewed 1 August 2012




Disk 1 of 2



Introduction: Kevin commenced his printing apprenticeship in New Zealand in 1970 with the Northern Advocate, a family-owned, regional newspaper. He was instrumental in implementing computer type setting to the Cairns Post Newspaper, which was the first paper to become computerised and phase out heavy metal and linotype machines.



Explains that in the first stage of his apprenticeship, his principal activities were to prepare for proof reading, the type set by the senior apprentices; to complete exercises for transitioning onto the linotype casting machines; to undertake an annual training course in the linotype casting machines and to practise the basics on a simple typesetting machine doing corrections & minimal changes for other people.



Describes how he learnt to operate the machines by taking home a dummy keyboard from a Linotype type caster to practise typing skills and word patterns; talks about the differences between the Linotype keyboard and the Quirty keyboard; says that skills were learnt through tech courses off site rather than coaching.



Talks about how he moved through his apprenticeship to become a tradesman.



Gives an account of the technical process by which the newspaper moved to computerisation from the lead based system.



Describes the technical and on-the-job aspects of how he learnt to operate the new computerised equipment.



Talks about how the newspaper was extremely progressive for its time in using the new technology to set up artwork, in using full colour printing and in using a teleprinter to scoop stories before its competitors.



Says that one of the owner’s sons travelled to America to learn how to separate printing colours using photographic filters to produce the full colour newspaper. Describes how the son would use these techniques in printing the newspaper at night in order to keep them secret.



Explains that the newspaper was working at the forefront of technology and after resisting offers to purchase for many years, was eventually sold to New Zealand’s largest newspaper groups.



Commenced work with another newspaper in Palmerston North when his family moved away. Describes how he worked in display advertising which meant new challenges in returning to the use of old, but different, basic technology such as the Fairchild mechanical keyboard and the PDP8E digital computer.  


Disk 2 of 2



Kevin describes how he taught the staff the new computerised technology and talks about some of the problems they encountered.



Talks about difficulties and misgivings encountered in retraining staff in the transition from using 90 key keyboards to the Quirty keyboards. Tells a funny story about how he faked test results for one of the display advertising operators who was in danger of losing his job unless he passed the test.



Says that the computer supply company had never worked with newspapers so having Kevin on board with his previous experience was essential to the success of the transition. Talks about his contribution to the transition in making the transition seamless and the system work successfully.



Worked at the Cairns Post between 1976-1980. Talks about how the system was ‘bedded’ down during that period and the circumstances that led to him leaving to work for the Northern Daily newspaper in Tamworth.



Recounts some amusing stories about mischievous incidents concerning staff and apprentices - and about using the new computerised technology - in producing the paper during his employment at the Cairns Post.



Talks about his involvement in motor sport whilst working in New Zealand as an apprentice and because of his mechanical ability was asked to strip down and recondition, within a week, one of the Linotype type casters. Didn’t realise that management had bigger plans for him in a production management role which, had he known of this, would have sent his life in another direction.



Recounts more amusing stories about incidents concerning staff during his employment at the Cairns Post.



Talks about how he came to volunteer at, and his current involvement in, the Queanbeyan Printing Museum. Has become proficient in running the old machinery in the Museum and is able to show the technology in detail to visitors.



Gives a very detailed explanation of the machines housed in the Museum, how they work and some of the history surrounding their invention and how they compare with the technology used today.



Closes by explaining issues surrounding the low ‘care factor’ in the interaction of staff at the Cairns Post during his time there and recounts more amusing stories.



End of Disk 2