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Love Lane Lives - the boys & girls from the whitestuff

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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Goodbye Mr Noon?

Written by Ron Noon at 18:47 on Monday, August 16th 2010



I feel real pride that in my home town Liverpool, where I have taught for so long that there was a danger of being viewed by students as a primary historical source, albeit an increasingly animated, walkin’, talkin’ one, that my retirement from full time teaching at the end of July was reported in the local press. It was a strange “pre-obituary” feeling to see myself in Liverpool Echo and in Liverpool Daily Post features, but it was undoubtedly a confirmation of the value of the public history project that has come out of the Lane!

Retirement from the company calendar, (I still have a desk at LJMU and hopefully a lasting link with the history department), is not retirement from the world of sugar and Love Lane Lives. In fact I feel that once the batteries in my old carcass are re-charged and I return from holiday in September that more can be done to update and keep fresh the ongoing stories of life on the Lane and much further afield in the 21st century sugar world. There is so much more to write about and on September 10th Jim Smith, one of the stars of our film,  will be 100 years of youth and vitality. Leon Seth and I intend to film and record his “birthday” party and put it on the site. What a great character Jim is? 

I recently had a snail mail from MWW which not only revealed the “true identity” of one of our most regular and valuable contributors (all those pictures and website addresses are down to Michael Wray), but of Jim’s nick name. Here is part of the letter: “Dear Ron, Regards the all too frequent postings from ‘M.W.W. Wirral’ in the Love Lane comments section. I plead guilty…Astonishingly good film, and it was good to see J.J. Smith of Tate & Lyle Transport featured. He was sometimes known as ‘J.J.’ to distinguish him from another Jim Smith who drove a tanker. J.J. drove a small van during my time at T&LT.”

Michael was himself a “Buff Note Clerk” with Tate & Lyle Transport. He recorded “returned damages, alternating 7am-3pm and 2pm-10pm shifts with George Laidlaw. Working alongside us were Johnno Johnston and Stan Armstrong. The office manager was Andy Roberts: foremen were Jack Kelly, Randall (Alf) Holford and Jack Garrity (whose brother Alec was a T+LT driver). Harry Bramwell was apparently in charge of ‘Miscellaneous’...” Where are these guys now?

Maybe now that I’m RETIRED, I’ll have more time to check out these characters and given that next April will be the 30th anniversary of the closure of Love Lane it is all the more important to establish contact with more girls and boys from the whitestuff, for their stories and reminiscences. With Tony McGann and the Eldonians and hopefully with some support from a sugar free Tate & Lyle company, we will be able to celebrate another re-union night on April 22nd 2011. Watch this space.

Here’s another email I’ve had, (one of a number that were not sent to our site’s guestbook and comments section), which I’ve not had “time” to include in a blog but which ought to provoke some sweet memories and kind thoughts.

“As a youngster just finishing an apprenticeship in 1962, I owe a lot today to John and Gerry for the push up I received from them (unknowingly at the time) but long since recognised.It was only after leaving T&L and going out into the world that I realised what a wonderful place it had been, what a wonderful experience and training I had received, and what marvellous people worked there. Another current link I have with sugar is that my son is married to a South African cane sugar farmers’ daughter!  He’s now retired and his son has taken over the running of the farm – we visit and stay on the farm fairly regularly.”

That was from Jim Lycett who started off on the lane in 1957 but is now resident in New Zealand. He started a mechanical engineering apprenticeship with Tates and as the above extract illustrates he had a great deal of time for John Maclean (Albert E Sloane described his dear friend as a ‘Meccano fitter’) and for Gerry Hughes who was the AEUW steward. Colette simmons nee hughes wrote in from New Brighton Wirral on 02nd February 2010 about her dad Gerry. She can now read about how Jim from New Zealand cherishes memories of her father who sadly died from Asbestosis, linked very obviously as Collette explained to working at Tates. WORK can be dangerous, even in a refinery which as Jim Lycet argues was populated by “marvellous people”. One of those marvellous people was Jim’s own dad:

“My Dad had started as a lad in Tates drawing office, and had been involved in virtually all the alterations that went on in Liverpool for Tates since that time.  He was given early retirement in 1972 from his position of Engineering Manager of Design and Development” Jim’s granddad started at Fairries (Tates took this over in the late 1920s and even though it was an integral part of Tate & Lyle many people continued to call it Fairries not Tates.) “He was shift foreman for the refinery and warehouses and retired before WWII my Uncle Jack was a carpenter there before moving over the water and going to Lairds. My Aunt also helped out there during the war. My sister trained in the drawing office as a tracer too,before moving to the Automatic (which later became Plesseys). My younger brother also at the Inny (Liverpool Insitute school) followed me to Tates for his apprenticeship then left straight afterwards to go sailing with Blue Funnel”.

Below is a picture of Fairries taken by a friend of mine, ROGER O’HARA,.



Jim Smith’s son Kenny worked shifts in Tates but was more concerned with a rock and roll career and did n’t last anywhere near as long as his dad would have wanted for him. That said when Leon and I first filmed Jim, he took us upstairs to a room where he had loads of pictures and memorabilia and there right in front of me was a picture of a younger Jim being kissed by Annie Lennox! I asked Jim what the connection was and his mischevous reference to Annie as one of his former girl friends was followed by an admission that “ar Kenny used to manage the Eurythmics”!

There’s some great stuff that I’ve had from Mike Greenall and Les Trent which I’ll get round to incorporating in subsequent blogs so maybe in answer to the rhetorical “Goodbye Mr Noon?” it ought to be just good bye to full time teaching and hello to a rejuvenated full time career as a sugar researcher! I better be careful because I’ve just heard my wife shout down to me “what are you doing down there? We are supposed to be on holiday”. Indeed when I looked at the sugar bowl on the table of our friends house in downtown Vanacouver an hour ago I felt this blog coming on and hastily retreated from the hot sunny deck upstairs to write this up in their basement. I am an addict that has to be controlled, but once upon a time it was for at least three spoonful’s!

Now this achingly addictive drug and “empty calorie” offers me nothing more than food for thought about how a simple carbohydrate which we have no biological need for in its pure concentrated granular form has become ubiquitous and taken for granted. The politics of health dimension to sugar studies on this website are underdeveloped and I know that for Albert and John’s generation some of the comments I now make about the sweet stuff resonate with “food faddism”! Our views on food and health have changed and what only mattered because it was sweet raises far more serious issues about overeating and obesity today.

Sugar is the best example for me of how a recognized foodstfuff has very little to do with nutritional needs and is consequently a permanent and sobering reminder of how production under capitalist commodity production is driven by want not need, wealth not health! Looking around today at the global warming of our one world (toxic smog and oppressive heat in Moscow and floods and landslides in Pakistan were the extreme weather events as we flew out to Vancouver last Wednesday) the stark evidence is that the rich are getting richer faster than the poor are getting less poor.

OK I am on holiday, I’ve had my second GAIL warning, and very soon I’ll have to put the ball away. As I metaphorically at least do just that I’m introspecting as I type, on a poetic thought about an approximately 500 year old system which reduces human beings to commodities and costs of production at the end of the day! William Blake in the poem Augeries of Innocence urges us “to see the world in a Grain of sand”!  In the words of an inveterate sugar bore of no poetic ability, but who like Blake is addicted to a drug, (albeit a legal one), I can see Marx’s world of capitalism and greed in a granule or cube of sugar! Can you? Father Hartley certainly can and I’ll be updating readers with information and commentary from this wonderful “sweet fighter” in subsequent blogs.

To see a world in a grain of sand,
and heaven in a wildflower,
hold infinity in the palm of your hand
and eternity in an hour.