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