Compiling and Analysing the People Lists

How were the lists compiled? How accurate are they?

The employees included in these lists worked for different companies, in different locations, over a time span of roughly a hundred years. Systematic personnel records were not kept at the Sun until after WWII, and those that were kept were, as far as we know, subsequently destroyed, so the lists on this site will inevitably be incomplete and will contain inaccuracies.

We have had to delve into every document we could find that made reference to Sun people, and have built the lists from scratch, one name at a time. Unfortunately, even the best of the source documents was far from accurate, and those that originated within the companies themselves were often the worst offenders, containing typographic errors, inconsistencies, ambiguities, and information that was simply wrong.

In contrast, personal recollections of the names of colleagues have been surprisingly reliable – surprising in that our contacts are sometimes remembering as far back as seventy-five years. Most of us would have real difficulty performing a feat like this, yet names supplied to us in this manner almost invariably cross-checked with other sources.

Every effort has been made to identify apparent duplicates, and only when we are fairly confident that two (or more) names represent one person do we merge their information and get rid of the duplicate(s). In this context, we have had to do a lot of – we hope educated – guesswork. For example, we generally assume that if two apparently duplicate entries are for people who worked in different departments, then these were probably different people, as it was rare for individuals to change departments. But there are obvious exceptions to this: clerical employees often moved from one department to another and, in the early days as gravure developed, it was quite common for journeymen and assistants to move from letterpress to gravure, and towards the end, during the phasing out of gravure, to move from gravure to web offset.

Lists drawn up by individuals who worked at the Sun are often more reliable sources than house journals and newsletters, because not everyone whose name appears in a house publication necessarily worked for the firm. Sports and Social Club reporting is notably unreliable as an indicator of employment. Many people on Sun sports teams were not employed by the firm at all. These people were often referred to as associates but, equally often, no distinction was made in a team list between employees and associates, so we had to adopt a policy of not adding names to our lists from team activity reports, or from the Social and Sports Club and its reports, without additional evidence of employment from another source. Similarly, many of those who attended social functions were related to an employee, or were retired, or were related to a retired employee.

Some people left the firm and then rejoined it later. Some even left it a second time and rejoined a third time. We have assumed continuous employment unless we have evidence to the contrary.

We show relationships between employees, where known. We also attempt – but without much consistency so far – to show women’s married and maiden names, where known. It was not uncommon at the Sun for a woman to continue to be known by her maiden name within the company after marriage. For this writer, Mrs Wheatley springs to mind as an example. Her maiden name was Connie Rogers and she was known within the company for many years as ‘Miss Rogers’ and was referred to in this way in Impressions long after she became Mrs Wheatley.

We apologize for our inconsistency in the use of department names in these lists. It results from a concomitant inconsistency on the part of our sources, and also from the fact that over the years the names of departments did change; new departments (Scanning, Data Processing, Web Offset) sprang into being, and other departments (Composition, Letterpress) were closed, or were merged to form new ones. If anyone can suggest a way of rationalising this aspect of our lists, we will certainly listen.


Some complications in compiling the lists

Spells of separate employment are indicated in the lists by the insertion of a solidus (/), while a brace ({) indicates a date that is uncertain. For example, ‘w S.Print {1953-68) / (1971-77}’ means ‘worked at Sun Printers from 1953 – or perhaps earlier – to 1968, and again from 1971 to 1977 – or perhaps later.’ But how to handle ‘K. Amey, Camera operator’ for instance, who is recorded in Sunews # 62 of September 1977 as having left the Sun, and also in Sunews # 69 of April 1978 as having left the Sun? Is the first instance a mistake, or did K. Amey return briefly, then leave again?

Those who left the firm under a severance arrangement were shown in Sunews as ‘Leavers’ but quite a few of these individuals were later shown to have retired. Others were reported from the outset as having retired. Where we know for sure that a person retired from the company, we show ‘ret’ after the leaving date, so our records may not agree with Sunews. Where a name was listed under obituaries or deaths we have assumed that the individual was still employed at the Sun at the time of death, unless we have evidence to the contrary. Our sources are inconsistent in the way they tabulate this kind of information.


What do the lists tell us?

People often point to the extraordinary (by today’s standards) length of service at the Sun right up until the 1970s and even later, and interpret it rather felicitously as loyalty. Sun gravure manager Alan Hoare sent us a shift roster for the gravure machine room dating from 1933, and we found that many of the men on that list were still working at the Sun 40 years later. However, the assumption of loyalty may not always be justified. After all, for many years the Sun was the only place of employment in Britain for rotary colour gravure printing, and rates of pay were quite high. But when Odhams came into being in 1937, offering even higher wages for essentially the same jobs just down the street, many Sunnies promptly jumped ship.

We have analysed the information in these lists in order to try to determine (a) the average length of service per employee and (b) what proportion of total employees we have succeeded in including in our lists.

To figure out the average length of service per employee, we derived an average from randomly selected names in our personnel files, including only those people for whom we show a range of dates, but excluding anyone for whom we have information pertaining exclusively to World War II (i.e., anyone whose name was obtained from the consolidated war service list shown in volume 4 of The ‘Sun’ at War, and for whom we have no additional information). The result of this selection likely understates the average length of employment because, for the majority of employees for whom we do have a range, the actual start date may have been earlier, or the actual leaving date later, or both. This means that the typical person included in the statistics most likely worked at the Sun longer than our figures suggest. As a conservative calculation, then, based on the parameters described above, the average length of employment was approximately 22 years but probably more.

To figure out what proportion of total employees we have identified in our lists (the proportion, that is, of all employees who ever worked for the companies), we used – not being expert at higher mathematics – the total known employment figures for the companies to calculate the number of person-years of employment per decade. This is a very approximate calculation, and was done in the following manner (using the 1960s as an example):

Employment at the Sun in 1960 was approximately 3,600. By 1970 it was approximately 2,400. So for the decade, it averaged 3,000 per annum or 30,000 person-years of employment. Using this approach for all decades from 1900 through to 1990 resulted in the cumulation of an estimated 153,000 person-years of employment.

Now, if 153,000 person-years were worked by employees averaging 22 years of employment each, then the total number of people employed by the companies would be approximately 153,000/22 = 6,955. However, such analyses are notoriously unreliable, and so they turned out to be in this case. We had done our analysis in 2006. By 2011, we had identified many more employees – 7,375, in fact. Now, on November 1, 2022, the number stands at 7,973.

We have far more information on employees who participated in the social life of the firms than we do on individuals who kept a low profile. A person could have worked at the Sun for forty years or more, but if he or she was not prominent within the firm or involved in any sports, social activities, or extra-mural pursuits, and if we do not happen to have found a retirement or leaving notice, then sadly, for us that long-time employee didn’t exist. It's a situation that risks slanting the statistics in favour of the more visible employees, such as FOCs and managers, but whether those individuals worked more years on average than other employees will probably never be known.

Other interesting statistics could be derived from these lists. For instance, what was the average length of retirement for a Sun employee? Was the life expectancy of a Sun employee comparable to the national norm, or did working at the Sun increase – or decrease – a person’s life expectancy?

While we are pleased to have identified so many employees, we still hope to do better. We feel this is the most important part of the website, so if you, the visitor, can provide any further information about anyone who worked for any of these firms at any time, please contact us. Even if the people you remember are already listed here, you may be able to add some information – perhaps the name of a department, a start date, a first name, an anecdote. In so doing, you can help us to make the Sun employee lists more complete and comprehensive.

Peter Greenhill