My first – and very possibly last – purchase of The Sun newspaper remains vividly in my mind, though it was nearly half a century ago, on the very day that the title was relaunched as a tabloid under the ownership of Rupert Murdoch.

I grabbed my copy of the historic issue in a wind-lashed bus-station at Preston, as I made my way back to Sheffield – where I was newly embarked on studies to be a journalist – after a weekend visit to a pal at Lancaster University.

The date – which I have had no reason to remember down the years – was November 19, 1969. That this was a Monday is a fact always firmly imprinted on my mind.

This was because I found, on returning to my Sheffield digs that day, an angry letter from the editor of the Peterborough Standard, which was paying for my journalism studies.

He had learned from the college authorities, he told me, that I had been absent from classes on a series of recent Monday mornings. (Oh lord, here was another!) Would I please supply, he demanded – in words I still recall – “an immediate written explanation of these absences”.

What flannel I delivered in reply I no longer remember. Whether it was sufficiently emollient to restore good relations between us was a matter never put to the test. By the time I returned to full-time employment, the editor had gone off to assist in the trashing of Peterborough as press officer to the Development Corporation.

That was ‘officer’ singular, by the way, for this was a time long before the proliferation in public relations people. Most businesses, public utilities and local authorities had none at all. Journalists’ questions were asked of the people in the know, with no-one to filter them or to modify the answers.

The very different journalistic working practices of 1969 stand clearly revealed on stage in the West End production of Ink at the Duke of York’s Theatre (booking until January 6, 0844 871 7623).

From the pen of James Graham, a playwright exceptionally gifted at fact-based drama (This House, The Angry Brigade, The Vote), Ink tells the story of the Murdoch takeover of The Sun and the successful campaign to turn it into Fleet Street’s biggest seller.

We follow the tale step by step, beginning with the wily Rupe’s wooing, over a restaurant meal, of Mirror sub-editor Larry Lamb to become editor of his newly acquired title. So well did the two hit it off – the savvy Aussie recognising at once Lamb’s committed and fearless professionalism – that he never bothered to interview other candidates on his list.

Their rapport is lucidly conveyed by Bertie Carvel as Murdoch – despite an accent more suited at times to the character’s later American ambitions – and Richard Coyle as Lamb.

As the play proceeds, however, we begin to realise that their relationship was far from friction-free, with Lamb determined to prove himself his ‘own man’ rather than the puppet of his proprietor. This was illustrated particularly in Lamb’s handling of the distressing story of the kidnap and murder of Muriel McKay, the wife of Murdoch’s right-hand man Sir Alick McKay.

Lamb’s insistence on giving the fullest publicity to the kidnapping – rather than allowing quiet dealing with the brothers who seized her – is shown to have contributed to her dreadful fate, eaten by pigs, it is thought, on her kidnappers’ farm.

The Sun’s vendors, ironically enough, were IPC , the owners of the Daily Mirror. Another bidder had been the Oxford-based businessman Robert Maxwell.

The vice-like grip of the unions on newspaper production then is expertly conveyed in the play, with telling illustrations of the rigid divisions over who is permitted to do what as words are transmitted from the journalists’ typewriters towards the printed page.

Director Rupert Goold impressively conveys the intricacies of hot-metal production of the sort that was to continue during my first years in the trade.

Bunny Christie’s adaptable set ideally suits the action, and stirs warm feelings of nostalgia among those of us who remember the way things were, with the clatter of typewriters, the fug of cigarette smoke, and the whisky bottles on the shelves.

Some of us will also remember the way things weren’t, in terms of language especially. James Graham introduces to his script – unwittingly I don’t doubt – a number of words and phrases that would never have been on anyone’s lips – in the context here supplied – in 1969.

They include ‘empowerment’, ‘wish list’ and ‘narrative’ in the sense of what a dictionary calls “an explanation or interpretation of events in accordance with a particular theory, ideology, or point of view”. This meaning did not exist until the 1980s, in America.

Inevitably, there is much talk about sex, but we should never have been told of ‘bonking’, first widely heard much later.