Falling from a tree at the age of 16 changed Brian Smith’s life forever.
As his dreams of becoming a print journalist were shattered due to his paralysis, he found an unexpected solace in the form of his rehabilitation therapy - printing.
The teenager, who had lost the use of his hands and fingers, used the printing press and mono type as a new way of learning.
Two years later Brian had set up Rufford Printing Company - all from his mother’s dining room table in Rufford.
Now, 47 years later, the company is still flourishing, located in Cedar Farm, Mawdesley.
Brian says: “When I left school I planned to go to Southport Tec College and was hoping to go into journalism.
“But I fell out of a tree and was paralysed form the neck down. I spent a year and a bit in hospital. I have been in a wheelchair ever since.
“Back then there was not many opportunities for people in wheelchairs. I could no longer go to college as there was no ramps.
“I knew then I could no longer continue in education.
“Printing was a therapy I did as part of my rehabilitation. It was used to motivate me and mono type was a way of learning how to do things a different way.
“When I left hospital I bought a metal Adana 8x5 hand press and that’s when my printing company started. I was aged 18.
“When you undergo a life changing injury, your life can go in many different ways. Printing was a gateway to the future.
“I started printing personal note paper, tickets for coffee mornings and bingo.
“I have never been out of work since.”
A year after Brian launched his company, he invested in a Heidelberg 10x15 T Platen and he relocated to his family’s garage.
The 65-year-old recalls: “My dad James operated the Heidelberg. I set the formes in lead monotype whilst my dad worked the press in between his shifts at a textile mill.
“After that, things steadily grew.”
Rufford Printing Company now has six employees, with two Heidelberg Platens and several other pieces of equipment.
With the introduction of Offset Litho in the 1980s and the business steadily growing, Brian relocated to Cedar Farm in the 1990s.
Brian adds: “I have left pre-letter press behind but I still have the presses. We do a lot of letter press from metal type. There is quite an upsurge in letter press.
“Each piece is just as special as the next. That’s the beauty with the letterpress because each impression has a tiny difference. It’s the nature of this printing, the traditional and personable approach, the time taken for each job and the unique finished articles that have given the trade a whole new lease of life.
“We print wedding stationary for people from all over the world, including Australia, Thailand and Norway. We have even printed stationary for weddings at St Paul’s Cathedral. There is a market for it definitely.
“Using the letter press we have printed 100 thousand tickets for the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. The tickets were for a train ride to mark the anniversary of Stephenson’s Rocket.”
Looking back to the day he bought a hand press, he never envisaged what opportunities it would lead to.
He says: “If I had not got the hand press during rehabilitation I don’t know what would have happened. I hankered after running a newspaper but I am still in the printing press industry and I love it.
“Every day is different. You never know what challenges you will be doing. We love experimenting with different things and I love the variety.”
With a great passion and enthusiasm for the history of the printing press, Brian holds infrequent open days allowing people to see how it all works.
Children have also been involved in print making as part of Cedar Farm’s 30th anniversary celebrations.