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Graham Ferrier Mackintosh

1935 - 2015

Graham Ferrier Mackintosh, fine printer and publisher.

Born April 13, 1935 in Salt Lake City. He lived most of his life in San Francisco, and died May 9, 2015 in Santa Barbara. His father, who had emigrated from Scotland to Salt Lake City, soon moved the family to San Francisco, Jean Ferrier his wife, and two sons, Graham and Ron. He bought a house in the inner Sunset District. At the time, their house was the last in the development, and from their front door on 10th Avenue, sand dunes stretched to the ocean beach. This home was a touchstone for Graham his for life. He loved the house, and his history there.

Graham and his brother were close and enjoyed being kids and teens in San Francisco, with fast cars and freedom. Graham loved going to the Tanforan and Golden Gate horse tracks with his father. He learned the knack of winning at the track from him. He summarized this skill as knowing more than the other fellow about the race variables.

Graham attended Lowell High School. He loved learning, but saw class and race based bullying - which he despised. He developed a lifelong disdain for conscious and unconscious cruelty and pompousness. He was always an interesting person. He attended a high school dance with two of his friends. One was in full drag. The ruse was discovered, and prompted a marathon questioning session in the principal’s office. Graham told them that he had been fooled and unaware his friend was in fact not a girl. No matter how much he was pressured to admit that his story was preposterous, he stuck to it. He always would go to great lengths for his friends.

Graham was in the Marines high school ROTC and slated to go to Korea upon graduation, but that conflict ended just as he graduated. Free of this obligation, he started to attend the California School of Fine Arts (now SFIA), where he met his first wife Kathy Knight, an artist. Just a few months later, he was drafted by the Army. He married Kathy and left for basic training. He was able to attend basic training with one of his best friends from high school, David Flattery. Kathy joined him in at his permanent post in Ft. Eustis in Williamsburg Virginia. Graham was able to find position of part time caretaker of a pre-revolutionary historical house there: Providence Hall. Graham and Kathy had a daughter, Caitlin; after Graham was discharged, he and Kathy returned to the Bay Area. Living first in a large flat in the Fillmore, they then moved more or less permanently across the bay in Piedmont. Graham enrolled in UC Berkeley and continued his involvement with the literary and poetry world of the Bay Area.

Graham began printing and publishing in a small home shop in Piedmont. His wife, Kathy, and daughter Caitlin did the binding and stapling for the early books. He then moved to San Francisco to a shop off Jones on Steveloe Place in the Tenderloin, then moved to south of Market to a much bigger shop on Natoma St. There, Caitlin, Daniel and Julia Brooke played gleefully among paper palettes and type cases. They were privileged to play in the street at will. Graham enjoyed working the friends and meeting all the characters that revolved around the printed arts, but he especially loved the open door to the street life of San Francisco.

In 1967 Graham and family moved to Los Angeles for a year while Graham worked for and learned from the fine printer Saul Marks. After, he moved to Santa Barbara to set up shop with Noel Young: First at Noel's shop on Canon Perdido, then to State Street and the Fithian Building. Graham and Noel continued to work on projects - splitting their business eventually. Their shop was situated between the 100 year old Gutierrez Pharmacy with window full of giant glass bottles containing strange concoctions, and the old Azteca restaurant. The shop was a thriving business and social place. Lynn Stark, Jim Jimenez, Joe Babine, Sasha Newborn, Aaron Young Linda Benet, and Caitlin Mackintosh all worked with Graham in different times and ways.

During this time, Graham and Kathy lived on Westside with their daughter Caitlin in a turn of the century bungalow. They entertained many poets and artists: James Liddy, Jim Chapson, and many other writers, as well as Gerry Haggerty and Linda Benet – both artists who lived across the street and became very close friends. He had many interests: languages, Chaucer, Busby Berkeley, Samuel Johnson, Sanskrit, automobile design, motorcycle-sidecar racing, alpha feedback, beer making, banjo and model airplanes are a few examples.

Gerry said “We knew Graham well enough to realize that he was the embodiments of Dickens truism about the best times and the work of times [as alcohol took its toll] but at his zenith Graham was the wittiest man in the world." Jim Chapson said “I often thought Graham would have felt at home in the Scriblerus club – Swift, Pope, John Gray, and Robert Harley, the Earl of Oxford. Like them, he had a sharp eye for the absurdities of the age, and like them, a remarkable integrity." He and Kathy experienced almost a decade with friends and rich happenings in Santa Barbara.

In the late 70s Kathy divorced Graham, as he had been overtaken by his unsupportable drinking. He then moved shop to the Andalucía building at State and 101, where he gradually came to terms with his divorce. He stopped drinking in 1982. After a few years of recovery he met Janet Thormann, whom he had known in the 1960s in an English class taught by Alain Renoir at UC Berkeley, and then as a poet.
Graham married Janet in 1986.

He then traveled back and forth between San Francisco and Santa Barbara. He did larger production jobs in doing Santa Barbara, where he spent time with his daughter, her spouse Ellen and his grandchildren Annelle and Tali. He eventually sold his large equipment and moved his Heidelberg Windmill letterpress and Vandercook proof press to Raoul’s Fine Fabric. There, his good friend and designer Sally McQuillan gave him space to work for many years. He resumed publishing the White Rabbit Press in San Francisco. He worked from the basement at 10th Avenue. He worked at the with his heavy Colt letterpress which chugged on reliably, while he the printer fought the steady disappearance of cast type and fonts from the world.

Graham’s step-daughter, Gabrielle Thormann said “The garage door at Tenth Avenue open to the street and his tool bench visible, Graham made friends of the passing neighbors, sharing comments and humor. Graham did handyman jobs in the house, made wood furniture, did repair work on his car and motorcycle, framed pictures, and enjoyed waxing Janet’s 1982 Mazda rx7. He spent early San Francisco mornings chatting in local coffee shops on Irving or on Clement or at his favorite Chinese pastry shop on 9th Ave. During these years Graham always sober, was hard working, levelheaded, clear seeing, patient, affable while still ready with quick wit and speculative candor. He was happy with his wife and friend Janet. He continued his long-term friendships. Graham and Janet shared common interests, especially the loves of literature, poetry and history. Graham was also my friend and a caring step-father.”

During this time he frequently saw his brother Ron whom he relied on and loved, and who supported Graham selflessly – Ron was there when helping with the first shops and at the end with Graham’s many health issues. Graham thought of Ron as a prince, the best brother anyone could ever have.

Janet and Graham enjoyed life in San Francisco and traveled extensively together to New York, England, Scotland, France, Israel and Italy. Graham loyally and with love stood by Janet in her good times and her difficult times – including during her illness. At Janet’s death Graham told Gabrielle who visited and chatted with him regularly as well as his brother Ron, that he and Janet were great buddies. After Janet died, Graham had some good times at a medical care center in San Francisco where he had a circle of smoking friends. A visiting friend at that time Dale Hoyt commented “I had so much fun with him when we were planning to fleece the other residents with a harmless game of poker. He was getting very good at close up magic."

Graham himself faced serious and debilitating health issues through these years after and was supported at different points by Ron, Gabrielle, Caitlin, Ellen, Annelle and Tali.

Graham then moved to Santa Barbara for additional care. His granddaughters often entertained him with Mr. Toad wild wheelchair rides (which he often initiated) and they learned pool from him the hard way, by scathing criticism of their barely acquired new skill, they also had great ice cream parties, ad hoc parties and different excursions, and of course always: trips to smoke on the roof. Graham made friends even in the midst of loss which weighed on him. He was always complicated but incredibly interesting, amazingly strong and settled in his own thinking.

His daughter Caitlin visited often especially after work, and tried to keep his life interesting and pleasant and fun while keeping discomfort and shades at bay. During these visits he talked to me about the people he had known in his life. He marveled at the idea that he had known them, and asked me how it was possible that he had such wonderful luck in his life to have met them.

Graham is survived by many friends and family. Caitlin Mackintosh, Ron and Vicki Mackintosh, Gabrielle Thormann, Ellen Ratcliffe, Annelle and Tali Mackintosh-Ratcliffe. Sally McQuillan, Lynn Rollins, Joe Babine Linda Benet, Lynn Stark, Harry and Sandra Reese, Alistair Johnson and many more.

All will miss him and his unique way of seeing life, his love, his unexpected revelations which were his gifts to his circle and time.

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