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Scottie Press meets its maker

First printed in February 1971, Scottie Press has provided a voice for generations of people living in and around the neighbourhoods of Scotland Road, through engaging grassroots journalism.

48 years later, it continues to campaign for people’s civil rights, injustice in government policies and equality for communities, whilst promoting positive stories happening across the area. The longevity of the iconic publication has led to a readership across Liverpool, nationally and even internationally - with copies posted around the globe to this day.

We meet up with founding member Bernie Murphy and his wife Rose to turn back the clock and find out what forged Britain’s longest-running community newspaper.

The only remaining member of the original six person editorial board, Bernie passes us a list of names:

Ian Hering (Editor), John Mulrooney, Joe Maxwell, Eileen Nixon, Ted Murphy, Bernie Murphy (founding members)

(Other contributors) Rose Murphy, Anne Goodman, Susie Clarke, Lilly Bramhill, Marie McGiveran, Marie Dunn, Reg Andrews, Tommy Kine, Jim Millington, David Ow, Freddy Williams, Keith Severs, Micky Keating, Jimmy Disley and, later on, Ron Formby.

“Everyone on that list was interested and they would do the lot,” says Bernie. “They were from different parts of the area – some were from over the bridge, some from Holy Cross, some from St Gerard’s parish – different people came in and it was a good time.

“I’m the last of the mohicans,” he adds.

Bernie takes us back to the beginning. “First of all, they had something called the Vauxhall Project in St Sylvester’s School, back in the ‘70s. One night there was a meeting – I never went, but my best friend went. The next day he said to me, ‘Bernard, there was a meeting last night and a young lad came. He was a student from Newcastle and he asked if I could get a group of residents together to do something for the area.’”

The student from Newcastle was Ian Hering, who worked on the paper during its early years.

“They were from different parts of the area – some were from over the bridge, some from Holy Cross, some from St Gerard’s parish - different people came in and it was a good time. I’m the last of the mohicans,”

“There were six of us who got together and we had a meeting in my brother Ted’s house at 56 Sylvester Street. I think Ian had it in mind to form a community newspaper and we all thought it was a good idea. Ian was very talented, he was only about 20. He could play a few musical instruments, he could type, I think he typed the first papers and he was a good artist as well.”

“He was like one of the family – he was brilliant wasn’t he?” Rose adds.

Bernie picks up the story. “Anyway, we got together and thought this newspaper was a good idea. We got premisses down on Byrom Street in an empty shop – we all met there and Ian explained what we needed to do – he must have known something about newspapers as he taught us all.”

The group went digging around the local area for scoops.
“When we got all the information, Ian had all the papers laid out on a big table and he told us how to set the paper out,” says Bernie. “And that’s how the first newspaper started. It went to print and we sold them into different shops and in the churches.

“There was one time, on the first edition, I went over to St Anthony’s with my daughter, who was about ten years old then. We were outside the church waiting for people to come out and, as we’re standing there trying to sell the paper, we heard someone say ‘don’t buy that, it’s a communist paper!’”

Scottie Press meets it's maker Rose and Bernie Murphy

After Byrom Street, the Scottie Press office moved from place to place. The group stayed for a time in a pub at the top of Raymond Place (previously Hornby Street) called The Grapes. Bernie says, “When the paper started, we had lots of different people coming in wanting to join Scottie Press. Soon after, even children came to help fold the papers…”

“Including my three”, adds Rose.

“We had a couple typists there – one of them was learning on the job, I think she was only about 16, her name was Marie Dunn,” he says. “It was great fun. We used to come home from work and go straight to meet in the pub. We’d do our own articles – we all had our own jobs to do around the area.”

“Everyone just mingled together,” says Rose.

We talk about some of the rememberable stories from the early editions, one of which famously put Scottie Press on map. “We were one of the first to get to know about the Tate and Lyle closure – before any other paper. There was quite a hullabaloo about it! The people that worked there didn’t know anything about it until we printed it… but it was true,” Bernie says.

The story first published in Issue 21 printed the headline Tate’s to close? The story outlined fears of the sugar refinery’s closure, focusing on warning signs including the poor upkeep of the factory and the recent trade deal with Europe that indicated factories would shut down across Britain for cheaper tariffs abroad. As the workforce lived predominantly in Vauxhall, the implications of the factory’s demise meant hundreds of local people would be out of work, creating severe economic consequences for the district. Eventually, Tate’s closed several years later. “It was whole families that lost out – their bread winners had gone,” Rose says.

Moving on from The Grapes, Scottie Press soon found a permanent home in Vauxhall Neighbourhood Council, where Rose worked as a receptionist in the community centre for 26 years. The couple laugh as they recall a story from the past. “One time a fella came in with a rat, didn’t he Rose?” laughs Bernie. “He put it on the counter.”

“I screamed!” confirms Rose. “One of the guys, Micky Keating – he was a character – came over and grabbed the rat and threw it back at him!”

Rose talks of the days of old around Scottie. “We used to walk everywhere,” she says. “You would walk from one end of Scottie to another – it was a nice walk and we’d have a drink here, there and everywhere.”

“Before the Scottie Press, no-one was getting any information at all,” says Bernie, “unless they went to community meetings. Other than that, people didn’t know what was going on in the area. The likes of the markets, Tate and Lyle and churches closing down – plus all the different things that went on – people didn’t know about, other than what they read in the Scottie Press. Scottie Press has been a real boon for the area.”

And, as we cross the decade into 2020 to publish our 445 edition, even the last remaining Scottie Press member admits, “I didn’t think it would last this long!”

Issue 1