A brief history of Dawlish Newspapers
ESTABLISHED in 1897, the Dawlish Gazette was founded by John Eunson, a printer from London, who came to Dawlish during the early 1890s with his wife and two sisters and rented The Moorings and Littlehame, then 28 and 29 The Strand.
Mr Eunson set up a small printing works at the rear of number 29 in buildings which had been the stables and coachman’s quarters.
The original Dawlish Gazette order office was in the front room of The Moorings and was run by Mrs Eunson who often had as her office companion a rather ‘worldly wise’ parrot which became well known for its salty use of language!
The Dawlish Gazette first appeared on Saturday, April 24, 1897 and cost one penny. It was printed on an Albion Press. The press stood as high as the room in which it was operated. This presented a problem due, remarkably enough, to the impressive eagle which was not there for decoration but as part of the machine’s leverage system. When the press was working the eagle would rise and fall, so a hole had to be specially made through the ceiling above to give it space. People working upstairs would have been familiar with the sight of the majestic metal bird appearing through the floor. The eagle can still be seen at Dawlish Museum.
Later a cylinder printing machine, driven by a gas engine, took over production. Typesetting ceased to be handset and was set mechanically by a Linotype machine. In the following years gradual improvements helped to keep the Gazette abreast of printing and production technology.
Today, these machines are regarded as museum pieces. Gone are the huge machines with all their noise. The Gazette is now typeset on Apple computers using QuarkXpress software and complete pages are sent direct to plate making at the printers. A modern Web Offset press is employed to print thousands of copies in a very short time. It is all a far cry from the noisy, sometimes dirty, extremely precise methods of times gone by.
The Gazette’s first reporter was the late William J Holman, second son of Thomas Holman of the Strand Cafe and Bakery.
When Mr Eunson died suddenly during world war one, it was Mr Holman who purchased the newspaper and the printing works and under whose leadership the Gazette was to grow during the next 30 years or so.
William John Holman undoubtedly set the pattern for first-rate local reporting of which the Gazette has always been proud. One of his most notable achievements, which was a factor in the demise of one of the Gazette’s earliest competitors, the Dawlish and Teignmouth News, was the reporting of the famous Madame Harden Dawlish swindler court case in 1932.
This was heard at the police court in the town hall - now the Central Hall – and, because of the brilliant reporting and excellent shorthand of Mr W J Holman snr, the Gazette was able to have details of the case on the streets within an hour of the sentence being passed.
At about this time William James Holman appeared on the scene. Mr Holman, who still lives at The Moorings (January 1992) was to make an indelible mark on the Gazette.
After an apprenticeship with the Mid-Devon Advertiser in Newton Abbot, Mr Holman began at the Gazette in 1931. He acquired the business on his marriage and succeeded his father as editor when he died in 1946.
Mr Holman’s retirement came at what might be called a watershed both in local life and in newspaper technology. The early 1970s saw not only reorganisation of local government, which moved financial control away from the town to the district, but changes in printing and production techniques.
After Mr Holman, Eric Carter became proprietor of the Gazette and carried on the ‘community first’ tradition for some ten years. It was during this period that the first hesitant steps were taken into phototypesetting with a primitive Whittakers machine.
In 1982 the Gazette was acquired by David Banks, the proprietor of a printing works in Exeter. Mr Banks installed mini web offset presses in Exeter where the Gazette was printed. More advanced photosetting systems were installed. The pagination of the paper grew and even more local news was carried.
In 1983 a sister paper, the Teignmouth News, was launched. This was initially a property paper but then carried news.
In 1987 the two papers were acquired by Tindle Newspapers Limited, a private family newspaper group, with David Banks remaining as executive chairman.
Today the papers remain truly independent publications, family owned and locally run. They owe much to the high ethical standard and genuine feeling for the community which typified the work of the early founders.