No computers, not even a pocket calculator – just a head for mental arithmetic and a book called a ready reckoner were all junior tax clerk David Turnbull had to help him in his new job.
That was in the late summer of 1962, when the then 16-year-old Alnwick school-leaver managed to land himself a trial with local accountants Greaves Grindle after spending three months looking for work.
And half-a-century later, and David – who turns 67 this coming December – is still at his desk, only as manager of the firm’s taxation department.
A lot has changed in five decades, says David, but not his employer’s commitment to its staff.
“We’re like a big family,” he says. “Including myself, there are eight staff who have put in over 35 years each, and if you look at those with 20 years of service, there are legions.
“I think it says a lot about this company – we have very good bosses.”
“I’d also say that I’m privileged to have had some clients for over 40 years, who are now friends. Overall, I’d say I’ve quite enjoyed my career so far.
“It’s not so common these days to spend so long in the same place, since people are much more mobile and circumstances affect where you will go.
“Working here has been ideal for me – I’ve lived in the same house, which my parents live in, since the age of two. I’ve got to know a lot of people in town in that time.”
It was after finishing Lindisfarne School that David, from Blakelaw Road, decided to approach Greaves Grindle for work. “I’d been unemployed for three months. There were no benefits back then and if you didn’t work, your parents had to keep you. I was in a ‘bulge year’ when there were a lot of post-war children entering the labour market.
“I decided to go down to Greaves Grindle to ask the boss, Arthur Bird, if he would consider taking me on. I was always reasonable with maths, so he said they’d give me a try. It was all very strange going from school to work and it took me a little while to find my feet.”
Put to work under the supervision of senior clerks in the accounts department, David often got the opportunity to venture further afield.
“I got to go to places like Morpeth, which was quite exciting back then,” he says. “Because not everyone had a car, it often meant going by bus or train.
“It was a totally different world to today. In 1962 there were no pocket calculators or computers, everything was done in your head or with a ready reckoner book.”
And to add to the challenge, David not only had to contend with the arrival of capital gains tax in 1965, but also decimalisation in 1971 and the introduction of VAT in 1973, replacing the old purchase tax.
But there were advantages, he says. “You got to talk to people face-to-face back then, not via a call centre.”