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The Bulletin at 60: Ros Burnaby Atkins recalls the camaraderie and intense loyalty

17:30 17/11/2022
From 1985 to 2012, Ros Burnaby Atkins reigned over the classified ad department, deftly dealing with clients ranging from real estate magnates to self-employed plumbers.

I started at The Bulletin when Monique Ackroyd was still in charge and the office was in Avenue Louise. In the beginning, I was on my own with the classified ads, but after a couple of years we moved to Avenue Molière and the team grew quickly to cope with the queues of people placing ads on a Monday morning.

This was in the days of manual typewriters, when individual clients had to come to the office and fill in forms. There were 16 pages of small ads every week, and Monday was always frantic as we went to print on Tuesday. Preparing the pages was a labour-intensive process; we would sit on the floor to cut out the ads from the magazine for the next issue and then stick them onto the pages.

It was impossible to take a day off sick when there was a deadline. I remember having to come into the office when I was on maternity leave after having my third son because of a problem with the pages. This was out of an intense sense of loyalty to the company. As a boss, Johnny [John Stuyck, who took over the business from Monique, his mother,] was very fair. Although he and the editor were in charge, everyone else was on the same level and this lack of hierarchy meant we all pulled together.

The Bulletin classified ads

The most lucrative section in classified ads was real estate. The agencies would ring us up and dictate their ads over the phone; I had to develop my own form of shorthand to keep up with them. I also used to go and visit them and developed a close relationship with many of the clients.

Moving sales, lonely hearts, odd job men… they were just some of the other popular ads we published. Over the years, there were many changes to the way we worked, including upgrading to computers, but the main one was brought on by the internet. We were slow to appreciate the effect it would have on advertising. Our classified ads were quickly overtaken by online platforms such as Immoweb. Towards the end, I think the property agencies were only placing ads with us out of loyalty.

I could write a book about the goings-on in the office, but the one constant over the years was the family feeling and the camaraderie. During the school holidays, I often brought the children to work and they played with Johnny’s boys. My dog Oaksey spent many a happy day under my desk or chatting up Plouf, Johnny’s dog. We also made good friends in the office. One reason was that most of us were expats, so friendships were even more important. There was never a need for one of us to see a therapist, we developed our own very efficient support network.

Lunchtime in The Bulletin kitchen

For a number of years, Ackroyd owned a house on the Belgian coast, which staff could use with their families. At the beginning of the year, Vicky Whenham would put up a calendar so we could organise – and fight over – our time there.

The Christmas parties were legendary, as were our regular gossipy lunches in the kitchen (pictured above), especially on St Patrick’s day when our Irish colleagues would spoil us rotten with smoked salmon and Dubliner cheese. Of course, all that changed after 2007 when The Bulletin was sold and we eventually moved to Groot-Bijgaarden. However, The Bulletin has always been a huge and happy part of my life, and that’s mainly thanks to the wonderful people who worked there.

Ros Burnaby Atkins lives in Sterrebeek with her husband. When not on grandmother duty, she’s busy running a B&B.

Written by The Bulletin