When Douglas Crawford walked through the doors of The Falkirk Herald for the first time on January 3, 1967, little did he think that it would be the start of a lifelong connection.
Fifty years later he is the company’s longest serving employee – and one of the most respected by colleagues and bosses in equal measure.
In some respects, the family firm of F. Johnston and Company is almost unrecognisable from the one he joined as a fresh-faced schoolboy half a century ago.
The firm has grown from publishers of a handful of weekly newspapers across Central Scotland to its current stable of over 200 weekly, regional and daily publications. It also has a strong online presence and is one of the UK’s leading multimedia companies.
But turn back five decades and the business was still headed by the Johnston family from their premises on Falkirk’s High Street.
Keen to start earning a living, Douglas was alerted by his headmaster at Falkirk High School that the firm was looking for an office boy.
He impressed at the interview and was promptly told to start the following week, seven days after his 15th birthday. His duties at that time included going to the bus station to pick up news and advertising copy that was sent from other offices to be set in hot metal before being placed on the printing presses.
However, within 10 months he had impressed his bosses and was accepted as an apprentice in the caseroom to learn his trade as a compositor.
This lasted five years and during that time there were many changes as the transformation of the newspaper industry began.
It started in 1968 with the front page no longer carrying only advertising, being replaced with the attention-grabbing headlines that readers have come to expect.
The following year saw the introduction of web offset printing – and the change was dramatic as the paper was now produced on one of the most “modern newspaper presses in Britain” giving clearer photographs and type.
But it was the arrival of the computer that was to change the world of work for Douglas, or Dougie as he is known to many, and his colleagues.
However, he remembers attending an event at Callendar Park College with his then managing director Stuart McPherson where they were told that computers were the way forward and you would eventually be able to watch films and order food through the internet.
Stuart, in his inimitable style, left the meeting saying it would never happen!
But, for Douglas, it was to open up a whole new career path. In 1989 he was appointed systems supervisor, ensuring that the new technology ran smoothly to allow the growing number of newspapers to be printed on time and without any hitches.
Nine years later he became divisional field engineers’ team leader for Scotland, a role that was to take him the length and breadth of the country on a regular basis.
He would travel by road, plane and even ferry to sort out technical issues in offices as far afield as Stornoway, Peterhead, Rothesay and closer to home across the central belt.
“Where’s Dougie?” is a well used cry in Johnston Press offices when a technical glitch stops a reporter or advertising rep in their tracks from doing their job.
And the dogged determined streak that is so much part of his character, means that he will not let a problem beat him, going that extra mile – often literally – to help someone out.
Reflecting on his half century with the company, Dougie said: “I’ve enjoyed it. I don’t think I would have been here so long if I hadn’t.
“But it’s probably all about the people that I’ve been lucky enough to meet and work with that has made it the job that it’s been.
“I think during the 50 years that I’ve done just about every job at some point, even lifting the papers off the balers and selling them at the Steeple when the usual guy was sick.
“There’s certainly been changes over the years – whoever would have predicted what the internet would bring. But when I started we only had newspapers and you always felt in a privileged position to know what was making the news before it was printed.”
By Dougie’s side for the majority of his career, has been wife Katrina. In fact, the couple’s first home was above the former Grangemouth Advertiser office in the town’s Union Road. They now live in Stenhousemuir and have two grown-up children, Lynsey, Graeme and four grandchildren.
With his quiet ways and dry sense of humour he is a respected member of staff at The Falkirk Herald and throughout Johnston Press, but more importantly he is a loyal and thoughtful friend to all who have had the privilege of working alongside him.
We’re all glad that he’s decided it’s not quite time yet to close down his computer for the last time and plans to continue in his current role for the time being.
Congratulations Douglas from us all.