A brief history of the Gairloch & District Times
The first edition
The first edition of the paper was produced on March 31st 1978. Before this date there was no community newspaper for the Gairloch area.
It was the brainchild of two people: one was the local Tourist Officer who, having read a sister paper, the Ullapool News, thought that a similar paper would be a good idea for the Gairloch area. The other was a local resident, Fred Kelsey, the local vet, and their combined interest led to the production of the first edition.
The paper has always been produced by a team of volunteers headed by an editor or co-editors. Members of the team proof-read the content of the paper, type anything that is handwritten, answer the telephone and the emails, format the layout, deal with the money side (business subscriptions and occasional payments), liaise with out-of-area subscribers, print the copies and distribute these to the retailers.
Volunteers have changed over the years but there has always been an overlap so the production of the paper can run smoothly.
The team worked to an informal set of ‘rules’ until 25th November 2010 when Charitable Status was awarded. In 2015 the paper was granted SCIO status. The constitution changed but the public yearly AGM continues. The paper is ‘managed’ by five trustees, four of whom are volunteers, and the chairman is co-opted, and the remaining volunteers are members. Regular meetings are held.
Fred Kelsey’s house
The first paper was typed in the Tourist Office but Fred Kelsey’s house on Achtercairn Brae was used for the duplicating and stapling. Then the whole production moved to his dining room for the editing and typing and into his animal surgery for the printing and distribution. Here the production continued until the Kelseys retired and left the area in 1984.
A site cabin
The Gairloch Construction Company offered a temporary site cabin as an office and the spare paper was stored at Bank House.
Gairloch Sands Hotel
Early in 1985 production moved to the Gairloch Sands Hotel. At first the team worked in a large downstairs room but when this became the main bar they moved into a room in one of the chalets behind the main complex and then into a storeroom.
The Community Hall
A permanent office was needed and, after some negotiation, a room became available in the Gairloch Community Hall and the team moved there in March 1997.
The editorial for Volume 20, Issue 5 stated: ‘Our new room in the Gairloch Community Centre is very salubrious with fitted carpet and all nicely decorated. The Community Centre committee have done us proud… [we] look forward to being there for many years to come.’
The paper continues to be produced from this room.
The first three issues of the paper cost 3p each. However, the price was raised to 5p for Issue 4 because 3p didn’t cover the costs of the paper, stencils and ink. This was the price set until 1984, Volume 7, No. 9 when the cost was raised to 10p.
There was no further increase for some years until 1992 when the cost rose to 15p for Volume 15, No. 7.
In 2002 there was another increase because of rising production costs. Volume 25 No. 14 cost 20p.
The paper now costs 75p per issue.
Size and frequency of production
The paper has always been produced on a fortnightly basis and each year 25 issues are published.
For the first two or three years the paper consisted of 2, 3 or 4 sheets (4, 6 or 8 pages) whereas today there can be as many as 30 sheets (60 pages).
At first single A4 sheets were stapled to make booklets until in June 2009 A3 sheets were used and stapled centrally. At that time the yellow sheets of paper which led to the paper being affectionately called ‘The Yellow Pages’ were replaced by white sheets, leaving only the covers yellow.
In May 1978 the circulation reached 600 and this rose to 700 in March 1979. By 1980 this had increased to 730, and today about 1200 are produced.
Each year nominations are requested from the Highland Council for different categories of civic awards. In March 1999 four representatives from the paper went to Dingwall to attend the annual Civic Awards Ceremony for Ross & Cromarty to receive one of these awards. The award was given to mark the voluntary work undertaken by the team and others over the years in providing the community with local news, articles and information about local events and activities. The award took the form of a framed certificate plus a presentation box containing a dram and a glass.
Always in production, and how modern technology has helped
Despite snow for Issue 4, 2004, which prevented some volunteers getting to work, and electricity power cuts which halted the printing for Issue 1, 2005, the paper has only ‘lost’ one issue and that was many years ago. In 1986 no paper was produced on July 11th. No reason was given but it was hinted that there were no people available.
Some issues, however, nearly didn’t make it to the shops. Twice, because of machines breaking down, the paper had to be taken Ullapool and printed on the machines owned by the Ullapool News. In October 1991 the stencil cutter failed and in 1994 the Christmas edition was half-printed when the printer failed. The half-printed paper and boxes of spare paper were loaded into a car and arrived at Ullapool by 5pm. The printing was finished by about 7.30pm. The Editor wrote: “Cor! what a day but at least we met the deadline.”
In November 2005 the collating machine broke down and the paper had to be collated by hand.
Early editions of the paper were produced from stencils which were typed. No illustrations could be used. Stapling of the printed pages was manual. When more sophisticated printing machines were available each page of the paper was set up by the ‘cut and paste’ method using scissors and glue! Content was typed but illustrations could be included. There was a separate collating machine but stapling continued to be hand-operated. The first computer to be installed seemed revolutionary!
In the past few years there has been a great change in the way that the paper has been produced. With the majority of articles and advertisements being sent in by email it was decided to set up the paper directly on computers which led to no more manual ‘cut and paste’ methods. Editors could even work from home with preliminary content. A replacement printer was purchased which received the information directly from the computers, printed the pages, collated these and even stapled the booklets. Although this machine could still go wrong buying a second machine meant that there was a safeguard.
A local paper
‘This newspaper does not aim to rival the national press, and unlike them does not employ reporters. The object of the Gairloch & District Times is to give the community the opportunity to air their views in print…’
This was written for Issue 50 which was produced on February 22nd 1980.
Editors over the years have asked the community to contribute by writing letters and articles, sending in items of interest and offering to help on the team. As the editorial of the first paper stated: ‘Please co-operate and help to make this, your own local news sheet, a success. No longer will you have to carry your specs around the village to peer at notices.’
This ended with: ‘We think that this news sheet will be of great benefit to the community and please remember that it is yours and everyone can benefit. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by helping us… OVER TO YOU.’
Format and content
This has changed slightly over the years with successive editors imparting their own individualistic ideas to the pages, but the basic structure has remained.
The first tides were published in June 1978 but the reader had to deduct 4 hours 20 minutes to get the exact Gairloch tides. Now the tide tables are accurate for the area.
The first few papers did not contain advertisements from businesses but soon it was realized that both readers and businesses would benefit from this service. Personal advertisements, acknowledgements, local notices, ‘what’s on’ information, articles, reports of meetings and events and letters have always been encouraged. As the paper grew in size there was space for information about helpline and local information. A limited diary of events was first set out on the front page in 1983. This grew over the years and can now be found on the back page. Local artists have produced cover page illustrations and for many years there were topical cartoons, and since the use of computers and more sophisticated printing machines photographs can be reproduced. A ‘quick’ crossword was once a feature and under the current editor a more demanding cryptic crossword can be tackled with fortnightly prizes. And to make finding the reader’s way around the pages easier a table of contents is to be found on the front page.
Since moving to A3 sheets for printing there has been the opportunity for local groups to ask for questionnaires or particular information pages to be included as a pull-out central sheet.
Although sometimes the older printing machines were used for generating brochures and leaflets for groups the newer machines enable the production of professionally crafted booklets. However, this depends very much on the goodwill of members of the printing team.
Since 1981 the Gairloch & District Times has been responsible for the production and updating of a tourist guide which is now called About Gairloch Area. This is a comprehensive booklet for visitors containing many articles about the local area with illustrations drawn by a former Editor. It remains a best-seller. Also the history of the paper and its contents have been put into three booklets using the cartoons and drawings of the former cartoonist and Editor. The paper’s publications can be bought from local retailers.
As can be seen the paper has moved with the times. It has grown in size and is now much more professionally produced. It is a great help to local businesses and events’ organizers. It is the area’s mouthpiece and is an invaluable source of information.
After the Editor retired at the end of March 2013 the paper went into partnership with GALE (Innovative Community Enterprise). A paid editor and an administrator were employed but volunteers continue to help with all other tasks. In April 2015 the partnership with GALE ended and the paper is now independent. The editor and administrator continue to be employed, helped by the team of volunteers.