Mem­o­ries of ‘Mr Mid­dle­ton’, who has died aged 94

Middleton Guardian - - FRONT PAGE - HAROLD CUN­LIFFE

AMAN known to many as ‘Mr Mid­dle­ton’ has died at the age of 94.

Robert Holder, or Bob as he was known to many, was once the pro­pri­etor of Ver­ity’s Print­ers, which was once lo­cated in the Albion Build­ing, at the bottom of Wood Street.

Be­ing one of the old­est and best known firms in the area, many folk thought that he was ac­tu­ally Mr Ver­ity, but Bob had no prob­lem with this.

He once told a Guardian re­porter that when he first took over the busi­ness, the owner of a large con­cern re­quested that he at­tend their of­fice to dis­cuss some kind of print­ing that they re­quired.

Dur­ing the meet­ing the man­ager of the fac­tory re­ferred to Mr Holder as Mr Ver­ity.

At one point in the con­ver­sa­tion Bob re­lated that he was the new owner of Ver­ity’s Print­ers and not Mr Ver­ity, (who died in 1897). An or­der was given to Ver­ity’s at that time, but no fol­low up or­ders were ever re­ceived. From that day on Bob would not cor­rect any­one who called him Ver­ity, this, he stated, was bad for busi­ness.

Mr Holder - a true Moon­raker, be­ing born and bred in Mid­dle­ton - had printed all man­ner of items, from coun­cil minute books, posters, church mag­a­zines, busi­ness cards, to the lit­tle or­der books the wait­resses used in the din­ing rooms of Tommy Thomp­son’s chip shop.

Each or­der was made to his ex­act­ing stan­dards. Should lights be seen in his place of work late at night, it would be be­cause he was not happy with his end prod­uct, en­coun­ter­ing a prob­lem would see him work late to com­plete the or­der.

Bob was born in 1923 and saw ser­vice in the Se­cond World War as a wire­less en­gi­neer in Is­rael, Egypt and Malaya and wher­ever he was re­quired.

In one of these des­ti­na­tions he was in­jured when a lorry col­lided with him. When he re­cov­ered and was re­leased from hos­pi­tal he found that his bat­tal­ion had moved out, he was the only man there.

Bob’s am­bi­tion was to be a re­porter with a news­pa­per, so he ap­plied at the Guardian of­fice, which at that time was lo­cated in Mar­ket Place.

Fol­low­ing an in­ter­view with the then ed­i­tor, Jack Bagot, he was in­formed that he was a will­ing lad and it would be best if he started in the print-room. This saw him re­main­ing there, even­tu­ally serv­ing his ap­pren­tice­ship with this news­pa­per.

“Work­ing in the Guardian Build­ings,” Bob said, “Ev­ery­one knew when it was press day, the ven­ti­la­tion was not as it could have been, heat and fumes would fill the build­ing.”

Just af­ter the ces­sa­tion of hos­til­i­ties in the Se­cond World War, it was no­ticed that the print­ing firm of James Ver­ity was up for sale.

Bob re­lated, “It was my late fa­ther who got me into be­ing self-em­ployed. He saw the po­ten­tial in me hav­ing my own print works, so he fi­nanced the pur­chase of James Ver­ity. I knew I had to work hard and make a go of this busi­ness, my par­ent’s home was at stake. As the money came in I man­aged to pay my fa­ther back.”

As for keep­ing fit: “Walk­ing up two flights of stairs dozens of times a day helps,” he said. At din­ner­time Bob would walk to his home in Archer Park and back, al­ways be­ing stopped en-route by a mem­ber of the pub­lic for a chat.

Many folk around town will have fond mem­o­ries of this likeable and ge­nial gen­tle­man, full of in­ter­est­ing tales who al­ways had a sparkle in his eye.

Mr Holder fi­nally gave up the busi­ness in 1995, tak­ing re­tire­ment aged 73.

Hang­ing up his apron for the fi­nal time, he said: “I have no in­ten­tion to end my links with Mid­dle­ton. I in­tend to stay in my home town.

“I think it’s fool­ish to move away and re­tire to the sea­side. It’s such a priv­i­lege to stay in a place where you have so many friends and know so many peo­ple.”

One thing he said he would miss, how­ever, was the smell of the ink. He said: “No mat­ter where you are, or what coun­try you are in, that pleas­ant smell is the same.”

A ma­son, Bob was the old­est brother in the Lan­g­ley Lodge. In two years time he would have been elected Wor­ship­ful Master

He was also an ac­com­plished grower, hav­ing pro­duced a num­ber of or­chids. He leaves a son and daugh­ter.

The fu­neral of Mr Holder is on Thurs­day, April 5, at 11.50am at Mid­dle­ton Cre­ma­to­rium.

Bob Holder, known to many as ‘Mr Mid­dle­ton’, has died at the age of 94

An old pho­to­graph of Ver­ity’s the print­ers

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