Brisbane printer celebrates 90 years

Brisbane-based family print shop Clark & Mackay is celebrating 90 years in operation, now having four generations of printers running the business.

Since opening the company has operated across wooden type, letterpress, which current director Neil Mackay was originally trained in, offset, and now, digital, specialising in self-published books.  

Starting in 1928 in premises in Adelaide Street in the heart of Brisbane, Bert Clark and John Mackay opened a printing business using wooden type, each word being composed one letter at a time using hand fed and foot powered printing presses.

In 1945, following the end of World War Two, John Mackay’s son Ian joined the firm, along with his brother Garth. The company operated as letterpress printers until 1960, when Ian Mackay’s son Neil Mackay, the current director, joined the firm as an apprentice letterpress/offset printing machinist.

Neil Mackay says, “When I started with Clark & Mackay we were doing letterpress printing, the raised type. Probably five years later offset printing was taught at the college, so I did a course in lithographic printing, to keep up with the latest.

“In the ‘60s Clark & Mackay moved premises to a larger factory at 386 Montague Road West End.  This era consisted of five letterpress and one offset press – with no bindery equipment except for a stapler and punch machine. The purchase of Coronation Press produced a rapidly growing firm.”

Ian’s other son Ross Mackay joined the firm in 1969 as an apprentice compositor which led Clark & Mackay to the transition of hand set type and hot metal composition to computers and digital printing.  To accommodate expansion West End was extended twice between 1969 and 1994.

In 1994 the move to Rocklea, owing to the evolving fashion industry in West End, quadrupled the size of Clark & Mackay.

In 1997 Neil’s son Paul Mackay joined the firm as an apprentice machinist making the fourth generation of Mackays.  During this time the purchase and integration of Leader Press, which at the time was the printing arm of the Catholic Church, further developed Clark & Mackay.

The new digital press was introduced in 2002 and further enhanced the capabilities of printing in a new era for Clark & Mackay, and introduced the evolution of digital technology.

2008 brought a change as Ross Mackay retired to take up his vocation of a Minister in the Uniting Church.

So in 2014 Neil relocated the business from Rocklea to a more modern establishment at Colebard St East Acacia Ridge.  These premises with the upgrading of machinery and technology has kept Clark & Mackay at the forefront of all facets of print media, including digital printing and variable data also the state of the art in producing self published books.

Neil Mackay says, “Now we run two Fuji Xerox digital presses, a Komori five-colour offset press, and a two colour, and one colour Heidelberg press.

“Early on we were Heidelberg orientated, due to their superior equipment at the time.

“We have 10 employees,  we are lucky to have loyal staff, which have been with me for many years.

“A lot of our equipment now is more automated than it used to be. If that was not the case we probably would have hired more people.”

“One of our specialities now is self-published books, which becomes more important to us as time goes on. Printers are not surviving, and the ones that are only doing offset would not be very healthy. You have to do various things, and have a niche. Self-published books has become an important niche for us.

“We are family oriented, and service orientated. We believe in the old fashion belief in service, and they deserve a quality product for the money they spend.

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