Memories of his time as Newsletter Editor - a piece by Mike Umbers
The Society’s Newsletter and Rufus Segar
As Editor of the HCS Newsletter in the early ’nineties, the late Geoffrey Roberts enlarged it, improved the presentation, and made it a ‘Must Read’ with his in-depth articles on current issues such as the argument over a site for a Community Centre, the move out of the High Street of the Somerfield Store, a possible development of Princes Parade..... His final triumph was his booklet for the 50th Anniversary: ‘Our Time in Hythe 1945-1995’, designed and illustrated by Rufus Segar, and printed by B&S Printers, Aldington.
Geoffrey handed over to Victor Stevenson, an experienced journalist and professional editor. Victor produced four issues before his worsening eye problem stopped him, we missed an issue. Mike Umbers, then Vice Chairman, an inexperienced unprofessional, was asked to fill the gap by writing a double issue, Numbers 69 and 70 together, to report specifically on Somerfield’s ‘threat’ (as HCS saw it) to the High Street and the Public Meeting called to discuss it, for despite earlier promises, the Store had announced it would be selling cards and papers, and opening a coffee shop in the new store on Prospect Road (now the Waitrose store). The worry was, if you could do everything in store, even park, why bother going into the High Street?
Mike subsequently occupied the Editor’s chair for nearly ten years, 58 issues in all. He looks back here to the early years.
It was what nowadays we call a steep learning curve; then Newsletter No 73 (December 1996) was a breakthrough, and for two reasons: it contained our first ever illustration, and it was produced in two columns with lavish use of two fonts, bold type, and italics. We were showing off – we had acquired a WORD PROCESSOR! The text was actually still written in longhand and taken by car to Napier Gardens where Mike Farr laboriously typed it out on the new machine using two hands though only two fingers. If the content was too much or too little he drove it back to Cannongate Avenue for me to add a bit, or delete a bit, then back home again, he printed a Master Copy (four sides of A4) leaving a three-inch gap for the illustration. I then drove it to the artist’s home (next to Sandling Station). The artist was Rufus of course and he had agreed we might illustrate an article with a picture of the Leper Hospital at 150 High Street taken from his recent book ‘Remember Hythe -The High Street - 1902-1992’.
He took me into the tiny MacSegar Press Office and printed a three-inch sized copy of the picture I wanted - I remember being so impressed that he could do this in his own home. The picture was cut out and pasted (with glue!) into the waiting gap, and the precious master was then driven to B&S Printers in Aldington where the ever-helpful John Sutton was waiting. He turned it into a photographic plate, printed it off, and an hour or so later 500 copies were back in Spanton Avenue with Doug Amans, the Distribution Manager, and by him of course the packets were spread out to the army of Deliverers and thence onward to members, and to others HCS wished to influence (mainly Councillors in the Hythe and District Councils. and Press outlets).
From quill pen to keyboard, from horses to motor cars – there had undoubtedly been technical progress, but these differences apart, frankly the production of the HCS Newsletter in Hythe a quarter of a century ago was by a system whose basic elements Dickens would have recognised. And we had not finished: in NL74 (February-March 1997) the Rufus Segar Clock, also taken with his agreement from ‘Remember Hythe’, was pasted (more glue) into the masthead.
It has been there ever since except on Newsletters 113 and 118 which used Venetian Fete and Hythe Festival logos respectively, and NL100 when the Editor dropped it saying it was ‘time for a change’! This caused a members’ outcry and letters of protest, and the clock was restored with a grovelling apology in NL101. That was in September 2001 so it may now justly be called the iconic clock.
Rufus’s drawings were accurate in detail and full of humour, and he gave HCS carte blanche to reproduce them as needed. Working with him over the years we and our families became friends; he was an entertaining conversationalist and we enjoyed supper and garden parties, setting the world to rights together. We mourned with Rufus and Sheila the loss of a son in middle life, and much regretted their departure to Pershore to be nearer their children and grandchildren, though he left behind a pile of local books which are still part of the Society’s library. Indeed he invited Alan Joyce to pick up from him the unsold copies of Remember Hythe which we added to the joining pack given to new members, until they ran out.
Sheila sent us news of his death, aged 82, in 2015. Then came the surprise: that indefatigable researcher of the internet, Paul Naylor, discovered from Wikipedia that Rufus Segar ‘was a British anarchist, illustrator, and graphic designer best known for his designs of Anarchy magazine throughout the 1960s’. Paul quotes from his Obituary written by Rufus’ son for the Guardian Online (it is still there, you can call it up). We learn from it, astonishingly, that in 1955 Rufus ‘went to jail for three months in Pentonville prison.... rather than do national service. As an anarchist, he said he could never obey an order to kill. During his time inside he was head librarian, made chess sets for the warders and learned to roll cigarettes one-handed.’ I confess this came as a complete surprise! He never in any of our talks gave any indication of this issue of principle. Had he changed his views? Did he prefer to conceal them? I doubt that, he was too open. Was he considerately politely silent on the subject with me who had worn the Queen’s uniform for 39 years? I so wish I could sit on his garden bench again, glass in hand, and talk it through.
Another sentence in the Obituary tells us he was a founder member of the Association of Illustrators for the rights of artists to retain their artwork copyright. That rings very true: though personally generous with his work, he was a proud professional, and believed I am sure that talent must have its reward. And his own talents were remarkable: not only the buildings of
our High Street in Remember Hythe, but people going in and out, tiny animated figures (look closely to see what they are up to! Don’t miss the birds on the rooftops!) and commissioned productions (a four sheet fully researched history of St Martin’s Church for example, sold as a fund-raiser), and for the Marstons a depiction of the Water Mill (extract above) including an exploded drawing of the workings of the mill from dropping in the corn to bagging the flour.
We were fortunate indeed to have his talents and good will at our service.
Copies of booklets illustrated by Rufus Segar can be viewed on the Members Only section of the Website - here