Norwich print family looks back on century of service

Newspaper printing runs in the blood of Bob Kirk's family and, as he celebrated his 90th birthday, he received a special surprise in the form of a book charting his life and career.

Mr Kirk, who was a printer for 50 years with the precursor of the newspaper group which now publishes the Evening News, celebrates his landmark birthday today and celebrated with 16 members of his family at a Norwich hotel on Saturday.

His relatives produced a book on his life, featuring countless fascinating snaps from his career, which they presented to him at the party at the Premier Inn Nelson, in Prince of Wales Road.

The book also chronicles the history of the wider Kirk family and its close relationship with the newspaper industry in Norwich, from Norfolk News Group, which became Eastern Counties Newspapers, to what is now Archant.

Bob Kirk, who now lives in Old Lakenham, was apprenticed to the Norfolk News Company when he was 15, in 1936.

He started off working on a typesetting machine known as a Linotype and was classed as a compositor – hand setter – and eventually progressed to computer setter.

He worked for the company for 50 years and his time in the print room was only interrupted by his stint in the army during the Second World War.

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His father and grandfather both worked for the company before him, and his sister worked in the front office, while her husband drove one of the delivery vans for the newspaper.

And finally, his son Rob Kirk started off as a reporter with what was then known as the Eastern Evening News, now the Evening News, and now works for Sky News.

Mr Kirk, a grandfather-of-six, was born in Ber Street above his nan's shop at the house now occupied by the Baby Buddha restaurant. He has lived for the past six years at an annex at his daughter, Juliet Hunt's home, in Old Lakenham.

He said: 'I started on the lino and then had to learn about the computer. In those days our family could have probably produced the paper on our own, as so many of us worked there.

'It was a happy office and I don't regret any part of it.

'My dad Percy did 55 years as a printer with Eastern Counties Newspapers and his dad Robert also did 55 years, and my sister Gillian did six years.'

He said he was pleased to be celebrating his birthday with his family.

Are you carrying on a family tradition in Norwich? Call reporter David Bale on 01603 772427 or email