One Man-Two Success Stories
Printer's Devil to Manager, and Mace Bearer to Borough Mayor
LOTS of people besides the readers of "Splash" will want to congratulate Mr. Fred G Felce, a director of two Group companies, who has just completed 50 years in printing.
He is one of the pillars of the ancient borough of Higham Ferrers, whose 697th Mayor he became in 1947, and to many organisations in Rushden and Higham he has often given a helping hand.
Mr. Felce is the possessor of a bluff, hearty, good-humoured manner.
Its application never fails to set the wheels turning smoothly, whether those of a Phoenix, Quad-Demi, Automatic or a local government committee.
But to hark back. It was on Dec. 3rd, 1900, that Fred Felce, fresh from school, walked into the office of the "Rushden Echo" and took up the proud position of printer's devil.
They were ding-done days in Rushden and Higham journalism. The twin towns had rival papers the "Echo" and the "Argus." Competition was keen, and often to speed up handling copy Fred went with reporters to engagements, brought their copy back andwhen he gained experienceset it.
All setting was by hand. They made up four of the paper's eight pages on Thursday, another four early on Friday, and printed in time for a Friday afternoon distribution. Produced at premises in Victoria Road, the paper was owned by the late Mr. Charles Cross, and had Liberal leanings.
But by 1915, Mr. Felce had forsaken the "twenty-six soldiers of lead" and was a soldier himselfa gunlayer in the R.G.A. with two stripes, to which not long afterwards a shellburst added a wound stripe. By 1919 Mr. Felce was back at his old job, and a married man. His bride was Mrs. Eveline Lowther, of Halifax.
In 1926 came promotion. Mr. A. J. Potton, the manager, had to give up owing to ill health, and Mr. Felce was installed in his place. Three years later Mr. Cross died, and the paper came on the market. Purchasers were the Northamptonshire Printing and Publishing Co., owners of the "Rushden Argus." The two newspapers were amalgamated and printed at Kettering, but for many years much of the typesetting continued to be done at Rushden.
Colleagues' Help Meant Happiness
Mr. Felce was made manager of the new combined paper, and continued so until during the last war, when he took over from Mr. David Goodman the managership of the Northamptonshire Printing and Publishing Co., which operated commercial printing plant in part of the Kettering premises.
Later the commercial printing department was moved to Rushden. Since then Mr. Felce has become a director of the N.P.P.Co., and of the "Lincolnshire Free Press," Spalding, where he manages the printing section.
He has had an interesting career in civic affairsfrom Mayor's sergeant to Mayor. In 1914 he was the man who carried the Higham Ferrers mace, and he held the office again from 1925 to 1942.
In 1946 he put up for the Town Counciland topped the poll. The following year he became Mayor, and at the last election he topped the poll again with the most votes ever in Higham.
1947 as Mayor of Higham Ferrers
Besides holding offices on many committees, Mr. Felce is a member of the Pemberton Lodge of Freemasons and has been a member and officer of the Oddfellows for 50 years. He is now a Trustee of the Earl Fitzwilliam Lodge. He was Grand Master of the Wellingborouah District in 1941.
Mrs. Felce also takes a leading part in many town activities, was the first president of the Townswomen's Guild, and is chairman of the Toc H ladies.
A great grief to Mr. and Mrs. Felce in September, 1942, was the loss of their son, Flt.-Lieut. Peter G. Felce, of Bomber Command, who failed to return from his 37th operational flight. Mr. Felce's stepson, Mr. T. Lowther, also served in the Royal Air Force.
Though he has had such a long career in printing, Mr. Felce has no difficulty in remembering what was his biggest job. In 1901, when Cave's factory and other buildings caught tire and threatened to engulf the whole of Rushden High Street because of shortage of water for the fire brigade, Mr. Felce helped produce 14 editions of the old "Echo"all of them hand set.
Says Mr. Felce: "I would like to add that in all the fifty years I have been happy in the various duties I have had to do because I have always had the support of colleagues I have had with me, and without that no success is possible. Several of the staff at Rushden have been here for 20 years and at least four apprentices of the 30's still do their stuff here."