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lettering printing

Three cheers for the Don Dorrigo Gazette – three cheers for Michael and Jade

How long will commercial letterpress continue? Until it becomes too expensive to source spare parts or ink or, more likely, until the craft skills are no longer passed from generation to generation.

PART ONE: In the small township of Dorrigo (pop. 1100) high in the mountains of northern NSW commercial letterpress is, at present, alive and well. The Don Dorrigo Gazette is the last Australian newspaper (the Don Dorrigo Gazette and Guy Fawkes Advocate to give the full title) printed letterpress, and printed letterpress not as a hobby but as a business enterprise. DDG office outside

Now in its 104th year the newspaper is valued by the community it serves, for it acts as the heart of the community, a true community newspaper in every sense. One of the house-ads states: ‘Your Printer Is Part Of Your Community’. So much part of this community that 800 copies are printed each week, the eight-page edition hand-folded before being distributed both locally and afar and sold for a dollar; so much so that the rival newspaper of the big town of Bellingen (pop 2600) down the mountain is mostly shunned by the Dorrigo folk.

I first wrote about the Don Dorrigo Gazette two years ago (click here) and it has taken me that long to make the journey – about five hours from where we live in far north NSW, down the Pacific Highway, through the seaside town of Coffs Harbour before turning inland. So when we were serching around for a week’s break and my wife mentioned Dorrigo (there are wonderful rainforest walks and waterfalls to see) I didn’t hesitate.

DDG MichaelI didn’t know what I would find, though I think in my mind I had expectations of a much larger building, perhaps with a frontage that serves as reception and ‘newsroom’. After all, in my earlier years working as a journalist all the local newspapers I worked on in England had some sort of entrance, be it modest or grand. Not so the Don Dorrigo Gazette. (Though reading through the centenary issue of the paper, published on 20 January 2010 I find that until the late 1980s there was indeed a frontage, the ‘factory’ being built on in the late 1970s.)

We had arranged to meet Michael English (left), owner, editor, advertising manager, typesetter, printer and jack-of-all-trades, on Tuesday. He told my wife on the phone that he would be in early, around 5am, to finish off that week’s edition. The night before I scanned through the previous week’s edition: the front page ‘splash’ being Ancient History Display Comes To Dorrigo while Museum Musings on the back page (page 8, single page size 29cm x 44cm) contained the information that: ‘Our museum houses the complete set of the Don Dorrigo Gazette from 1910 to the present as well as the old Wharfedale letterpress printing press used to print the newspaper until it was replaced with the current Heidelberg cylinder press’. DDG heidelberg

TO BE CONTINUED …

 

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printing

The Don Dorrigo Gazette and Guy Fawkes Advocate – a typographic anomaly in Australia

The Don Dorrigo Gazette and Guy Fawkes Advocate should not really exist – especially now when papers are closing like it’s going out of fashion or becoming web-based only. But if the Don Dorrigo Gazette and Guy Fawkes Advocate did not exist reason would have to be found to invent it. The newspaper lays claim to being the ‘ONLY paper printed in the Bellingen Shire’ and has provided ‘news for the famous Dorrigo for 102 years’. Dorrigo, for those unfamiliar with Australia, is a small town in northern NSW – about an hour west of Coffs Harbour on the coast. I’ve not been there and these images are from copies of the paper sent to me by the publisher. Why? Because I discovered (through chance) that the Don Dorrigo Gazette and Guy Fawkes Advocate (and yes there is a National Park not far from Dorrigo called Guy Fawkes, the notorious 17th century ‘terrorist’ who is alleged to have tried to blow up Parliament in London, after whom the English fireworks festival of November 5 is named) is the only newspaper on this Continent still printed letterpress week by week, with the headlines hand set.

The machinery is wretched and old (a 1950s  Intertype and a 1940s Heidelburg cylinder), the presswork patchy to say the least but, hey, it’s letterpress living. And for that three cheers to the blokes at Dorrigo who, for all I know, are at this minute setting up the formes for next week’s edition. Good on you.