Love Lane Lives

The history of sugar in Liverpool and the effects of the closure of the Tate & Lyle sugar refinery, Love Lane

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Does letter writing really count?

Written by Ron Noon at 12:21 on Wednesday, April 28th 2021

THE 90 DAY REDUNDANCY PARTY LETTER
 
19.01.2006

Dear Mr Ferguson,

                    I am a history teacher from Liverpool and next Sunday, January 22nd, will be the 25th anniversary of the issuing of 90 day redundancy notices to 1500 refinery workers at Henry Tate’s mother plant, Liverpool Love Lane. It is not exactly the kind of historical fact that is studied on the National Curriculum but it has a real resonance here on Merseyside, where the surviving “boys and girls from the whitestuff” look back nostalgically to the days when they helped sweeten the nations breakfast tables.

For me the only thing that mattered about sugar when I started to research Liverpool’s refinery workers, was that it was sweet, but that is the last thing that can be said about the history of the “white stuff”. Far be it for me to give the Chief Executive of a Sugar Giant a history lesson in sugar, especially when you are married to a lady with impeccable historical credentials, but my brief goes beyond historical themes. (COMENT I did a search on the web and found out that he was married to a professional historian!)

It is to make a request on behalf of the Tates Liverpool pensioners, the late Peter Leacy, Tony McGann of the Eldonians, Alan Bleasdale, Jimmy McGovern, Brian Reade, Jack Jones, and Tony Benn, that Tate & Lyle plc finance a reunion of the former Love Lane employees, either on or after April 22nd, the fateful day a quarter of a century ago when after 109 years of operation on the romantically named site, sugar cane time came to an abrupt end in Liverpool.

Our famous port city’s history is inextricably linked up with the politics and power of sugar and of a once prominent landmark, just north of the city centre, where the world’s biggest sugar dynasty was established in 1872. Facts like that were relayed to me by so many of your former Liverpool employees in friendly interviews where many talked about “family spirit” and the company being a “smashin’ firm to work for, most of the time”!

Sadder tales were recounted however, and Mr Leacy, a proud former Tates pensioner visitor, told me of his bitter disappointment over the scrapping of the “biennial Christmas party” at the Britannia Adelphi Hotel, in December 1999 and of the disappointing responses to a letter he sent your predecessor, Larry Pillard, in January 2001.

Mr Leacy’s letter was written three weeks before the 20th anniversary of the issuing of the 90 days redundancy notices, and requested a final party bash! “The month of April…calls to mind the end of sugar refining at Love Lane factory in Liverpool, and your board of directors may wish to mark or commemorate the event to acknowledge the contribution that the many thousands of sugar workers made in over one hundred years to the well being, the prosperity, and the success of Tate and Lyle…May I therefore prevail on your good self, and your fellow directors to stage a final, one-off, never-to-be-forgotten farewell to Love Lane party at the very place of so many happy T&L get-togethers…the Adelphi Hotel in the City of Liverpool, on or near the date in April 2001. May I?”

He was then informed by Mr John Walker acting on the CEOs behalf,  that because the company was having difficult times, reflected in a low share price, “I don’t think we could justify the kind of expenditure that such a party would require”. We hope sincerely that is no longer the case, especially given the lead your company took in the Footsie 100 just before Christmas last year. 

Mr Leacy also described to me a cameo scene from the “last supper” on Lime St in December 1999 which I hope informs your response to this letter.  “Mr Richard Springford, the ‘human resources’ supremo from T&L London, for whom I had worked during my southern sojourn, was appointed to deliver the final address of welcome and farewell at the Adelphi. I was annoyed when no senior staff person or ex Love Lane personnel bothered to reply either in gratitude for past Christmas dinners or to express regret at the ending of them. So I introduced Mr Springford to my old T&GWU shop steward, Bob Bannister who asked a very valid question…… ‘Would it spoil some vast eternal plan if these Christmas get-togethers were to continue every two years, after all in ten or fifteen years most of us will have left for greener pastures?’.”

Precisely! Sadly Mr Leacy passed away last June. So having discussed a number of options and after talking to his twin nieces, Sheila Sullivan and Councillor Sharon Sullivan, the course of action that has the backing and support of the names I quoted earlier, is to formally issue this 90 DAY REDUNDANCY PARTY NOTICE!

Yours sincerely,

Ron Noon

............................
Here is the other letter I wrote in 2006 that was sent to LIVERPOOL MPs urging their support for our worthy cause. I initially pay homage to PETER LEACY, a lovely man and another Tate & Lyle scribe:

“When the ‘decline and fall’ of Liverpool is eventually written, let it be said of the Tate & Lyle Action Committee that there was no disgrace in failure. Disgrace comes in not having tried. And by God they tried.”

That comment in a letter written by Peter Leacy, one of the company’s transport drivers, and published in the Liverpool Echo, summed up a struggle that had actually lasted over 3000 days and culminated in “glorious defeat”. It helped inspire me to write letters in an attempt to get Tate & Lyle to finance “a final bash” for surviving employees of Love Lane. They deserved it. Peter Leacy deserved it. There would be no disgrace in failure but forgetting to try would I thought be unforgivable!

Dear MP ...

            I am writing this letter to ask for your support in what Tony McGann and a number of other prominent Liverpudlians think is a very worth while cause. Saturday April 22nd will be the 25th anniversary of the closure of Tate & Lyle’s Love Lane sugar refinery, and the surviving boys and girls from the Whitestuff, the very workers who gave such loyalty and dedicated service, unquestionably deserve a memorable reunion bash, hopefully financed by the Sugar Giant that started its corporate life in Liverpool.

In January I sent a letter to Iain Ferguson, the CEO of Tate & Lyle, that requested “on behalf of the Tates Liverpool pensioners, the late Peter Leacy, Tony McGann of the Eldonians, Alan Bleasdale, Jimmy McGovern, Brian Reade, Jack Jones, and Tony Benn, that Tate & Lyle plc finance a reunion of the former Love Lane employees, either on or after April 22nd, the fateful day a quarter of a century ago when after 109 years of operation on the romantically named site, sugar cane time came to an abrupt end in Liverpool”.

I received a reply from the Director of Corporate Communications and Deputy Company Secretary, dated February 2nd , which informed me that Mr Ferguson is “currently abroad on business” but “we are currently considering the proposal set out in your letter and will revert to you with an answer as soon as possible”. Unhappily that is too late for Peter Leacy, a proud former Tates pensioner visitor who initiated a similar request five years ago. He told me of his bitter disappointment over the scrapping of the “biennial Christmas party” at the Britannia Adelphi Hotel, in December 1999 and of the disappointing responses to a letter he sent to Ferguson’s predecessor, Larry Pillard, in January 2001.

Peter’s letter was written before the 20th anniversary of the issuing of the 90 days redundancy notices on January 22nd, and requested a final party bash! “The month of April…calls to mind the end of sugar refining at Love Lane factory in Liverpool, and your board of directors may wish to mark or commemorate the event to acknowledge the contribution that the many thousands of sugar workers made in over one hundred years to the well being, the prosperity, and the success of Tate and Lyle…May I therefore prevail on your good self, and your fellow directors to stage a final, one-off, never-to-be-forgotten farewell to Love Lane party at the very place of so many happy T&L get-togethers…the Adelphi Hotel in the City of Liverpool, on or near the date in April 2001. May I?”

He was then informed by Mr John Walker acting on the CEOs behalf,  that because the company was having difficult times, reflected in a low share price, “I don’t think we could justify the kind of expenditure that such a party would require”. In 2006 we know that is no longer the case, especially given that the company is back in the Footsie 100 with sales of its no calorie Splenda doing splendidly.

Mr Leacy also described a cameo scene from the “last supper” on Lime St in December 1999: “Mr Richard Springford, the ‘human resources’ supremo from T&L London, for whom I had worked during my southern sojourn, was appointed to deliver the final address of welcome and farewell at the Adelphi. I was annoyed when no senior staff person or ex Love Lane personnel bothered to reply either in gratitude for past Christmas dinners or to express regret at the ending of them. So I introduced Mr Springford to my old T&GWU shop steward, Bob Bannister who asked a very valid question…… ‘Would it spoil some vast eternal plan if these Christmas get-togethers were to continue every two years, after all in ten or fifteen years most of us will have left for greener pastures?’.”

That is precisely what this is all about and that piece was included in my letter to Tates CEO in January, along with this conclusion: “Sadly Mr Leacy passed away last June. So having discussed a number of options and after talking to his twin nieces, Sheila Sullivan and Councillor Sharon Sullivan, the course of action that has the backing and support of the names I quoted earlier, is to formally issue this 90 DAY REDUNDANCY PARTY NOTICE!”

So hopefully now with the names of those who backed the original “90 DAY RPN letter” and the imprimatur of Liverpool MPs, and a petition, we will ensure that the Liverpool Tates pensioners, the men and women who over many years sweetened the nation’s breakfast tables, get their own memorable anniversary bash in 2006. 


Yours sincerely

Ron Noon