Clark & Mackay celebrates 90 years

South Brisbane family business Clark & Mackay is celebrating its 90th anniversary in print, having evolved through major changes in the industry.  

The business has changed its printing process multiple times, going from letterpress to offset to digital.

Bert Clark and John Mackay started the business in 1928 in a premises in Adelaide Street within the Brisbane CBD, producing print with wooden type, each word being composed one letter at a time using hand fed and foot powered printing presses. After World War Two John Mackay’s son Ian joined the firm along with his brother Garth.

The current director, Neil Mackay is the third generation within the shop. He joined the firm as an apprentice letterpress/offset printing machinist in 1960. The business moved to a larger factory in the south inner city Brisbane suburb of West End in the 60s, where the company had five letterpress and one offset machine, with no bindery equipment except for a stapler and punch machine.

During the late 1960s Clark & Mackay acquired Coronation Press.

Ian Mackay’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, the West End site was extended twice between 1969 and 1994.

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In 1994, Clark & Mackay moved to Rocklea, to a site that quadrupled the size of the business. Three years after that, Neil’s son Paul Mackay joined joined the firm as an apprentice machinist making the fourth generation of Mackays in the business.  During this time the company bought and integrated Leader Press, the printing arm of the Catholic Church, further developing Clark & Mackay.

Neil Mackay, director of Clark & Mackay says, “We have had some of our digital presses for 10 years. In more recent years, we have been updating our bindery machines, which have become more automated. We have seen a lot of self-publishing work coming in, with more people wanting publish their own books. We needed to get it all done smarter and quicker.

“The move to digital printing has been the biggest change. There is as much work, but everything is more automated now.

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

 “I think printers should have the right attitude to clients, it is important to provide good service and quality and at a good price, people will not pay a silly price for the products. We do focus on service though, and talking to people and being happy to help. We get repeat service all the time and we are often told it is because we have been open to talk everything through.

“There is no use in being the cheapest printer around. You have to have good service and to be open to talking to people, I think that is important.”

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On whether he sees the store hitting its centennial, Mackay says, “I will not make it, but my son may. He works in the company and has worked here for a long time. He is fourth generation and a printer by trade.”

Clark & Mackay adapted to the evolution of digital technology when new state of the art digital presses were introduced in 2002, further enhancing the capabilities of printing. Ross Mackay retired from the business in 2008, becoming a minister in the Uniting Church.

In 2014, Neil Mackay relocated the business from Rocklea to Acacia Ridge. The business says upgrading its techn0ology and machinery has kept it at the forefront of print media. 

Mackay says, “We were fortunate to survive so long and I still enjoy what I do.

“We have 10 staff here including myself."

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