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Norwich man who oversaw changes in printing industry dies at age of 100

PUBLISHED: 10:25 18 October 2018 | UPDATED: 20:34 18 October 2018

Roy Sparks, who turned 100 years old in August and worked at Archant for more than forty years, died recently.

Roy Sparks, who turned 100 years old in August and worked at Archant for more than forty years, died recently.

Archant

Tributes have been paid to a Norwich man who turned 100 years old in August and had worked with a newspaper publisher for more than 40 years.

Roy Sparks was works manager at Eastern Counties Newspapers (ECN), which has since become Archant, this newspaper’s publisher, for nine years in the 1970s.

During that time he oversaw transformations in the industry, including the switch from hot-metal to photo-setting and offset printing. The youngest of three siblings, Mr Sparks was born on August 23, 1918.

He was 15 years old when he started his apprenticeship in the composing room at Soman-Wherry Press, in 1935.

During the Second World War he saw active service as a lieutenant in the Royal Artillery, including escape from Dunkirk. Many years later, speaking about the experience, he said to his son-in-law: “I never looked back, I only looked forward.” The sentiment summed up the character of his life.

After the war Mr Sparks joined ECN in 1948. Four years later he was made deputy chief make-up man of the Eastern Evening News, now the Norwich Evening News.

In 1955 he became deputy composing room overseer, management representative in the new work study team in 1959, assistant works manager in 1964, and works manager in 1970.

In that decade, earning the compliments of his colleagues and proving his calm during times of crisis, Mr Sparks oversaw newsprint shortages, power cuts which limited operations to three-hour periods and rail strikes.

He also rose to other challenges, including the company’s move from Redwell Street to Prospect House, as well as being closely involved with planning the change from hot-metal to photo-setting and offset printing which began with the weekly papers in 1974.

In 1979, at the age of 61, Mr Sparks retired to look after his wife Doris. They had married in 1941 and she died in 1986.

By this time, bowls had become Mr Sparks’ life. He played with County Arts, where he served for one year as the club’s president.

Mr Sparks is survived by his daughter, Margaret, and his two grandsons and great-granddaughter. He died at Norwich Community Hospital on October 8. His funeral will be held on November 8 at St Faith’s Crematorium.

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