August 12, 2022

Sunderland bingo card printing giant Edward Thompson will close after more than 150 years

The company, which was once the world’s largest manufacturer of bingo cards, will close its premises in the Sheepfolds Industrial Estate at the end of March 2022.

The number of jobs that will be lost has yet to be confirmed, but it is understood there are dozens in the labor market.

CEO Paddy Cronin said a combination of the coronavirus pandemic and other market conditions had “affected our business negatively and left us with no choice but to close”.

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“It’s the end of a proud story,” he added.

“We have printed bingo and games for over 40 different countries. We helped launch the national bingo game. We have provided promotions for most of the biggest newspapers in Europe and the world.

“We’ve helped raise millions for charity through our raffle packs. We’ve built bingo halls in Moscow, South Africa and the Everglades. We’ve printed hundreds of millions of ballots, including the ballots on which Nelson Mandela was elected.

“We are, and always will be, proud to be from Sunderland.”

Paddy Cronin

It was Mr Cronin’s father, Frank, who turned the family printing business into a global business after he returned from national service in 1953.

When a local Catholic priest, Father Jeremiah O’Callaghan, ordered bingo tickets for a parish fundraiser, the cards had to be ordered from a company in Ipswich, but Frank sensed an opportunity and in a few months, Edward Thompson printed his.

A company with less than a dozen employees in 1959 employed over 300 people by the mid-1960s and printed 50 million cards a week.

Frank’s genius for mathematics led him to increase the number of possible ticket combinations from less than 2,000 to nearly 17,000 and the company would continue to use his calculations to craft their cards.

Edward Thompson to close its Richmond Street location

The business grew during the bingo boom of the 1960s and a factory on Wilson Street was acquired to meet demand. A factory for Frank’s new venture, Wearside Electronics, which made bingo fans, was developed next door.

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A second factory was completed in Richmond Street in 1964 and by the 1970s Edward Thompson had become the largest bingo ticket manufacturer in the world. Such was the success of the business that Frank reclaimed Echo’s old office in Bridge Street in 1976 for additional storage space.

By the late 1970s the company was making 150 million tickets a week, but it was the introduction of newspaper bingo that provided the biggest boost in the 1980s.

Thompson’s produced more than 500 tons of paper a year at its Hendon mill for more than 20 years after taking it over following the departure of the Canadian company Domtar.

Papermaking ceased in 2006, but the company continued to print at the site until 2014, when the decision to close it was prompted by rising energy costs, the entire manufacturing being transferred to Sheepfolds.

Paddy Cronin today thanked “all of our customers, suppliers and colleagues” for their support.

“We are privileged to have worked with you and for you,” he said.

“We are organizing and training new suppliers to take the reins of our products and will be contacting our customers directly with details.”

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