In Memoriam

Many Thanks to Mike Wilson, from Yorkshire in the UK, for sending in this story.

Says Mike: “One day, late in my career, I was production manager at Driffield Times. I now realise that I was not a very able manager, much preferring to be a keyboard operator.

I received a call from the reception office and was requested to speak to a gentleman who had called to complain about an advertisement in the Driffield Times.

I hurried through to reception where I found the telephonist and two huge men, obviously from the local farming community.

On turning to the men, I found I had to look upwards to see their faces. They must have been well over six feet tall and they were built, as the old saying goes, like brick outhouses (or words to that effect).

I asked what I could do for them.

It’s About the Advert

They looked at one another, and one said to me: “It’s about this advert we put in last week.”

My face framed the required question.

“Well, it’s about our mother.”

“Yes? What’s wrong?” I gathered there must be something wrong. No-one has ever returned to a newspaper office to congratulate the staff on a correctly spelled, properly laid out advert even though the paper is full of them every week.

“It’s what it says. It’s wrong.”

He held out his copy of the paper. His rough finger pointed to a line on page two. Page two held all the BMDs: births, marriages and deaths. In those days local papers had a page dedicated to these personal ads and often the page was nearly full.

“Here,” he said. “Look.”

So I read the line. The advert was an In Memoriam, where the living paid tribute to those who had passed away. They are not so common these days. The first words were the name of the deceased, their mother I guessed. Then followed these words: “In memory of our ever-living mother . . .”

Perhaps you can guess how sorry I was for the error. I was sorry. The men were obviously upset about it and I couldn’t help but agree with them. However, my explanation that the letter ‘i’ is next to the letter ‘o’ on the keyboard cut no ice. Neither did my argument that my operators (me included) were keying such adverts and news at perhaps fifty/sixty words a minute, all day. Nor did it help to mention that it was likely to be the only mistake on the whole page, and perhaps in the whole newspaper.

Eventually, however, they were consoled and went away having made their point. I can’t say positively, but I think we returned their money for the cost of the advertisement.

I have thought since that, had I received a sack of spuds from their farm with one bad one, I might well have complained to them!