George Rowles: Poetry

George Rowles shares many poems throughout his memoir Chaps Among the Caps, all of which act as an insight into the trade he adored. in some cases the author of the piece is mentioned but most of the time he or she is not, one can only presume that George himself is the author.




Newspaper doors are open wide,

And through them flows a surging tide

Of men and women, youngsters too,

On toes to see the paper through.

Reporters, subs, Opinions-Moulders,

Readers, Comps and Copyholders

Stereo Blokes and Rotary Minders

Lino Ops and Warehouse Blinders –

All in appropriate working dress

For another edition is going to press.


Over the copy the Subs all bend

From credit line to final “End”

Scratching here and scratching there,

Hoping to find the story rare ;

But, sad to say, the stuff’s all jike

And most of it goes on the spike.

Pursing their nearly hopeless task

They presently in sunshine bask.

For just on time a story breaks

That a first-class splash for the front page makes.


The Chief Sub and Assistant Ed,

Tired and weary, nearly dead,

Are putting each other through the mill ;

Arguing about the contents bill,

Telling each other what is news –

Enough to send them on the booze.

Then the Circulation Bloke

Says “D’you want us to go really broke?

Blows your local reputation,

What we want is circulation”


The Ad Director comes in late

With another half-page on a plate :

The local freelance with a whoop

Comes in with a great big scoop:

The Make-up Man all smeared with paste

In desperation makes all haste

To get the scoop in and the ad

And the effort nearly drives him mad :

The Printer, almost on his knees,

Please “Copy, gentlemen, copy please!”


The Editor blithely doth caress

The first rough proof from off the press.

He looks the pages through and through,

Then turns all colours, red to blue,

Shouts loudly down the speaking tube

To the Printer : “Well you are a bloob,

This issue’s really going to town,

For a blinkin’ block is upside down!

Stop the press, replate page five

When you’ve turned the block – and look alive!”


Newspaper doors are open wide

And through them flows a surging tide

Of men and women, youngsters too,

Who’ve seen the local paper through.

Reporters, Subs, Opinion-Moulders,

Readers, Comps and Copyholders,

Stereo Blokes and Rotary Minders

Motor Drivers, Folders, Blinders –

Home to supper and restfulness,

For another addition has gone to press.


The Tramp Printer


Give me my miserable pay to date

And I’ll chance my arm at jumping the freight;

Give me my tweezers and comping stick

And I’ll sleep beneath my old hayrick

Along the rolling English road

Or perhaps with the “spike” as my bode.

When I’m tired I’ll ride on the market cart

To the next town, where in print I’ll start,

Setting up galleys of solid brevier,

Drinking a pint of penn near-beer.

Give me the trail and some elbow room,

Striding along on the road to doom.

A rolling stone truly gathers no moss

But at least he is free of the comp-room boss.





Pick ‘em up smart, boys,

Don’t be so slow.

The forme is waiting,

Waiting to go.


Look out for commas,

Mind where they go

Or the Comma Club experts

Will spoil the whole show.

poetry 2




I’m sitting at this reading desk

-With galley after galley

Of six-point figures till I feel

A typo Cinquevalli.


I’m sure that it will get me down,

-Juggling with these figures

(Another line is upside down,

I’m jittery with the jitters).


I’ve persevered at “Talking pains”

-And now I’m “routine” labelled;

From doing “interesting” work

I surely am disabled.


Why can’t I do a book about

Sweet-Nell of Ancient Drury,

A pamphlet for the Oxford Group

Or a brochure for a brewery?


I’m not particular, of course,

-I’d work on any crisis,

Or nine-to-four or two-to-one

Or what the hell the price is.


To get some “Interesting” work

I vainly seek “removal,”

But can not get the powers that be

To signify approval.


Our Mr. Temple kindly says

Reward will follow worth,

But by that time I’m sure that I

Shall be beneath- the turf.




(Appeared in The Story of a Printing House published by Ebor Press 1965 but set in an Olde English language reminiscent and in tribute to the Caxton tales)

Ye Christen men, take herte of grace,

Ye sette your minds in Lower case:

Bihold how God at man’s sore need

Imprints Himselfe for alle to read

In smallest type, so fair and swete

There’s noght to adde ne yet delete.

Now make we all peticioun

That in our Compositioun

We Follow Copye as we can,

Humble Displaying God-in-man:

So shal our lytel Lorde

Be evermore adored.



Rowles, George. Chaps Among the Caps. Unpublished. Burnett Collection of Working-Class Autobiography, Special Collection, Brunel University Library, 1:600


Poetry 2


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