We still call them cuttings although it’s a long time since archivists painstakingly cut stories from a newspaper and stuck them on a card to file.
They are invaluable as reference sources, not just to us but local historians and other researchers.
Mostly they are filed under subject. Other times under the reporter’s name. Today we access computerised files, in theory at the touch of a button, in practice hoping one random word will finally resonate and produce the relevant file.
They are fascinating, these cards containing the small print and finer details of so many lives.
I stumbled across one of my articles there, written in 1976, when I was 20 years old.
Our office was at Victoria Street. To me it was the golden age of The Gazette, not that I knew it, broadsheet, several editions, read in virtually every household, mighty presses rolling below, an age of hot metal and cold pints early doors at the Little Vic.
The article was dreary. Long intro, all the dated style points of overseers, proof readers, linotype operators obeyed to the letter. No literals. Nothing to distinguish it. A jobbing hack’s effort.
It appeared alongside a feature by Jackie Heap. Heapie as we called her. I came across it while re-reading her articles, a masterclass now, as then, in quality journalism.
We think we work hard today but here was a woman who wrote Waterlines for the sailing community, Eve, House Call, main features and news.
Each card – the sum total of her labours more than I could carry – bearing the stamp of her individuality as a writer and woman of substance.
Her writing, like herself, was rather beautiful, spare, elegant, warm, compassionate, witty. Timing spot on.
She knew how to start and end an article, just as she knew when to advise her daughter the “price of independence was loneliness”, and showed us all how to live – and leave – life gracefully and with great dignity. She died at home, her daughter and husband at her side.
I attended her funeral this week. Standing room only and not much of that. I stood at the back between a model given a career break by Heapie and a charity campaigner helped, too.
Lots of familiar faces, including former colleagues, most of who it was lovely to see again, but I was struck by the sheer diversity of those present and the many lives Jackie had touched not just through words but deeds.
Her own daughter Caterina reminded of us how Heapie once appealed for volunteers to sit with elderly people, and when not one came forward did so herself – forming a friendship which endured to the old lady’s death, at 95, and beyond with her daughter.. who was at the funeral.
Jackie retired 17 years ago, at the age I am today. I still get mistaken for her. It used to irk me. I’m the Other Jacqui I’d say. I wish I could still say that today. But there’s only one Jackie Heap. You could say it’s on the cards...