A recent look back through the archives of the Falmouth Packet threw up an interesting piece of history involving a predecessor of this very newspaper – and the equipment used in its production.

Among those pictured in last week’s Step Back in Time feature was Ken Lukies, sat at a rather unusual contraption – the Monotype letter-press keyboard.

The article, published in July of 1975, features Ken Lukies, retiring from newspaper publishers and printers firm JH Lake and Co Ltd at Ponsharden, between Penryn and Falmouth.

The firm was later incorporated into the company that is now Newsquest, publishers of the Falmouth Packet.

Mr Lukies, of Penmere Crescent in Falmouth, was a Monotype operator – a crucial piece of equipment in the production of newspapers and other printed materials during that period.

A system for printing by hot-metal typesetting from a keyboard, the main difference between this and a Linotype machine – the Monotype’s main competitor at the time – was that the Monotype system was divided into two machines: a keyboard and a caster.

To use it, a Monotype operator, such as Mr Lukies, would enter the text onto its keyboard. Letters on this were arranged in the same ‘QWERTY’ arrangement that keyboards continue to display today. However, there was one big difference – the letter characters were repeated multiple times in different formats.

Ken was pictured before his retirement in 1975, after 50 years at the firm (Image: Falmouth Packet/Falmouth History Archive)

A typesetter using the Monotype keyboard would need to move from one group of keys to another, in order to achieve uppercase or lowercase letters, with options also available for italics (both upper and lowercase), small capital letters and more.

Pressing letters produced different codes, punched onto a special perforated tape that transferred them to the Monotype ‘caster’, which read the tape and produced a column of justified type that could then be printed.

Joining the company as an apprentice compositer in February 1926, Mr Lukies moved on to the Monotype keyboard composing machine after completing his training.

His only break in service with the firm was during the Second World War, when he was with Bomber and Coastal Commands of the RAF as an instrument repairer.

Speaking of his time with the firm, Mr Lukies told the Pendennis column of the Falmouth Packet that he had seen it grow over the five decades. He said: “It has changed completely since I started. It was a small firm with a small amount of jobbing and newspaper production. Now it has been absolutely transformed.”

The article reports that Mr Lukies, who was also vice-chairman of Falmouth Gay 90s Club through his love for old-time dancing, would be using his time during retirement to spend more time working on his garden, while also sharing his other passions for motoring and walking with his wife Kathleen.

  • With thanks to Peter Searle of Falmouth History Archive at The Poly for sourcing the original material.