A history of the ''Jersey Evening Post''

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The composing room in the 1960s

This article first appeared in Jersey Topic magazine in 1966

On Monday 30 June 1890, there was launched in Jersey a new venture which grew and grew and, indeed, is still growing 76 years later: this venture was the Evening Post.

Guiton and Queree

It all began when Walter Guiton and his associate, Mr A P Queree, who had a printing business at the present premises in Bath Street, agreed with Mr H P Butterworth and a Mr Reynolds who had started a newspaper, to print 1,000 copies of the paper daily. By this time Mr Reynolds had withdrawn and a short time after the initial publication Mr Guiton acquired the proprietorship.

For all practical purposes he is rightly regarded as the founder of the Evening Post. At the time of the first publication the only English daily was the Jersey Times and British Press, but after some time the Evening Post was left alone in the field of local evening daily journalism and its circulation gradually rose and never looked back.

Walter Ernest Guiton was by any standards a staunch Primitive Methodist, and a man with a flair for journalism. He believed sincerely in his newspaper and its place in the island and set out to establish a paper which would print all the local news. He is quoted as saying 'They . . . (the local population) are interested in reading about all the little things that happen in Jersey ... nothing that happens in Jersey is too small for our columns'.

He was a man who constantly had his finger on the public pulse and built his newspaper up on the principles of giving all the local news to the local people, and how right he was.

Mr Guiton was a kindly man, eminently approachable, and his staff adored him, not for the constant little kindnesses which he did for them so much as for his interest in their affairs, their well-being and in their families.

He was ably assisted by his life-long friend and associate Dolph Queree, and so the paper went from strength to strength.

Linotype purchased

For the first years all type was hand set and it was not until 1900 that the first Linotype machine was bought. Printing was done from the outset on Wharfedale flatbed machines and a hand-press, part of the original plant, is still in daily use in the jobbing department.

Distribution to the country was made by horse or pony-drawn traps and the drivers heralded their arrival with a bugle call. In 1913, a year before World War I, the first motor car was purchased for the delivery round and the second in 1915, it being announced : 'As we have purchased another motor car and it is our intention to deliver the 'EP' by this means, our well-known ponies are for sale'.

Mr Guiton and Mr Queree continued to direct the paper all through the war and for some time afterwards until Mr Guiton's death in 1927.

A linotype operator supervised by a German during the Occupation

Who was to continue the paper? Mr. Guiton had no son, but his elder daughter had married Arthur Harrison, who was already on the staff, and it was he who took charge. But before then, in the early 20s, the first rotary press had been installed and was started in 1926 by the then Bailiff Sir William Venables Vernon. Circulation by then had risen to 7,500 copies per day and the edition took three hours to print. But to return to Arthur Harrison, father of the present managing editor and a man gifted with an amazing news sense and first class managerial ability. He believed in all the things in which Mr Guiton had believed and also that a responsible Press, in Jersey as everywhere else, has a great duty to perform and can be a very great influence for good, and he let none of the staff forget that.

Kind and generous

Under his able direction the paper progressed to maturity. He earned the reputation of being a hard man, his manner was inclined at times to be brusque, but underneath the manner there was an essentially kind, generous and warmhearted man. He did not suffer fools gladly in whatever walk of life they moved, but when a member of the staff did a good job he got his due meed of praise and appreciation; conversely if he blotted his copybook he got it in the neck. His staff appreciated this mixture of firmness and kindness, for they knew that if a man was sacked it was for a very good reason and it was a sad day when during the rigours of the German Occupation they followed him to his last resting place.

He had decided at the outset of the Occupation that the paper should carry on as best it could; the printing plant had been substantially improved by 1939 and the circulation had risen to 13,600 in a population of 50,000.

Occupation

At the beginning of the German Occupation, the States ordered all public officials to stand by their posts and the population were urged to carry on with their work. The closing down of the paper would have meant that there would have been no means of circulating very necessary orders and instructions, rumour would have held sway and moreover the staff of 60 and their families would have been thrown on to the charity of the States.

The decision to carry on was a wise one, there can be no doubt of that. The occupying forces were anxious for the paper to continue and if it had not they would have taken it over themselves, so that it was infinitely preferable that it should remain under Jersey direction, which it did all through that time.

There was censorship, of course, and a daily German communique had to be published, but otherwise the paper remained firmly under its own direction. Many vicissitudes were suffered during that period, shortages of paper, ink and other materials caused temporary stoppages until the Germans could import fresh supplies from Europe.

Linotype machines in 1966

After the supply routes were cut by the Allied invasion, the paper came out as one page, three times a week; with electricity cut to one hour a day, type had to be hand set and the paper printed in that one hour, which sometimes came between 10 and 11 pm, which meant that the staff on duty had to have curfew passes.

As the Occupation continued Mr Harrison had gradually handed over managerial responsibility to his elder son, the present managing editor, Arthur Guiton Harrison, who had the unenviable task of acting as a buffer between the German censors and the declared policy of the paper to print all the news that could be found, and also to restrain some of the more outspoken members of the staff who grew restless under the restrictions.

That he managed to do all this and still keep his sanity is a tribute to his courage, and to the convictions inculcated in him by his father and grandfather. The Liberation saw only eight days supply of paper left but, it seemed miraculously, more arrived and the paper was enabled to go full steam ahead once more and record in detail, all the events of that unforgettable time, and also many others which it had been debarred from publishing.

Arthur Guiton Harrison

Re-equipment

All this time Mr Harrison had had the support of the staff, headed by the then news editor, Billie Troy, and the present news editor, Jim Scriven. As things settled down after the Liberation fever had died, Mr Harrison settled down to reorganise and re-equip. In 1948 a Ludlow machine for setting headlines was installed, now there are two.

The office was modernised, the printing rooms enlarged, a teleprinter installed to increase the coverage of foreign news — to the true Jerseyman English news is still 'foreign'.

A staff contributory pension scheme was introduced. By 1950 the staff had risen to 65 and the circulation to 15,400 and 12 flats principally for members of the staff had been built. Recently additional presses have been bought and are being installed; six vans now carry the paper all over the island and 60 agents help to distribute it to practically every family. A long way from the 1,000 copies delivered in 1890 by pony and trap.

On 14 December 1957 what had been essentially a family business was registered at the Royal Court as W E Guiton and Company Ltd, the founder members being Mr Harrison, honoured recently with the CBE, his two sisters, Mrs E L Walker and Mrs M I Wagstaffe. In January 1960, Mr Scriven and Leslie Sinel, the works manager, were given seats on the board, and more recently Bryan Harrison, great grandson of the founder, and Max Lucas, the deputy news editor, were also appointed to the Board.

Mr Harrison once told the BBC that he liked to think of the Evening Post as constituting the Opposition in an island in which there are no party politics, and the paper has never hesitated to state its views or to allow its readers to put forward theirs, whatever those views might be.

Its columns have always been open to the public who, through the years have taken full advantage of the fact. The Evening Post was once printed on pink paper, which prompted the editor of a long since defunct gossip weekly, to refer to it as 'our ham coloured contemporary'. It has, in the course of its long history been praised by many competent journalists, decried and abused, but still its head remains unbowed — long may this continue.

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