John Nichols: You Know His Name

How do! / 你好 (nĭ hăo) / Namaste / Welcome!

/vɪm/

noun

informal
noun: vim
  1. energy; enthusiasm.
    “in his youth he was full of vim and vigour
    Origin: mid 19th century (originally US): perhaps from Latin, accusative of vis ‘energy’.

Today I am mostly going to talk about Vimto. Well, maybe not talk, but write. Yes, today, I’ll write about Manchester’s John Nichols and Vimto. When I was at RAC Inspection Services in Cheadle, Stockport, we used to have a fizzy Vimto option on the drink vending machine. It’d pump out gassy and sugar-free purple liquid into a disposable cup, or mug if you remembered to place one down quick enough.

I have always enjoyed Vimto. My Gran and my Nana used to give me steaming warm cups of it when I was too young to touch the top of door frames. Not that the height of doorframes was a prerequisite for drinking the purple-golden cordial. I can even remember having it pumped on draught at the Working Man’s Club in Newton Heath and Morrison’s supermarket in Failsworth. Since those days, I have supped this drink at the Etihad Stadium, in Abu Dhabi’s airport and on Hua Hin beach in Thailand.

Vimto was originally a health tonic. It contains about 3% fruit juice concentration. The key fruits are possibly from Lancashire: raspberries and blackcurrants. There are grapes too. Don’t ask me which valley of Lancashire they came from – I can only assume Bowker Vale. It sounds plausible. Herbs and spices are bunged in too. Preston’s Ellis Wilkinson Mineral Water Manufacturer produced the water early on. It was really a health business on a healthy path of growth.

“My father used to go into work on Saturdays in those days, back in the mid-to-late ’60s, and so there was a fascination. And in those days my grandfather, who invented the product in the beginning, was still around.” – Grandson John Nichols

(John) Noel Nichols came from Shortridge, Scotland to 19 Granby Row, Manchester. By 1908 he had invented his new drink, just off Sackville Street, and around the corner from Back Acton Street. After 4 years his vim tonic was shortened in name to Vimto. The wholesaler of herbs, spices and medicines had found something quite popular amongst local people – especially in the shadow of the temperance movement and the new 1908 Licensing Act. Soft drinks were a new and exciting market. It changed from health tonic to cordial by 1913 and the rest they say is history.

It is not clear if John Nichols would have approved of the Purple Ronnie character or the slightly rude Giles Andreae poems (friend of screenwriter Richard Curtis). These highly marketable poems and colourful animations appeared in the 1990s and set a tone for a trendy drink – as an almost indie alternative to the giants of Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Nowadays the family link is retained within Nichols plc. Grandson John Nichols is the Non-Executive Chairman. His two sons also work within Nichols plc.

“We have a very open, friendly approach and encourage any member of staff to talk to the management team about their ideas for the business. Innovation has been key to our success in developing the iconic Vimto brand and identifying new brands, products and market opportunities.” – John Nichols, interview with Warren Partners.

Vimto Cordial has diversified from its original form, to sugar-free varieties, fizzy carbonated cans and bottles, cherry and strawberry editions. Then there is Vimto Remix. And sweets. Ice-lollies too. With new space needed, Vimto moved to the edge of Manchester into Salford’s Chapel Street, now home to the luxury Vimto Gardens apartment complex. By the year 1927, they then scattered to Old Trafford (then home to the teenage-aged Manchester Utd. F.C. who had by then picked up five senior domestic trophies) before heading back onto Mancunian soil in Wythenshawe by 1971. Nowadays the multi-billion dollar American-Canadian beverage and food service provider Cott Corporation produces Vimto in Leicestershire and Yorkshire. Presumably both exotic locations have better access to grapes. Traditional bottled soft drink manufacturer A.G. Barr in Forfar and Cumbernauld still make the pop too.

Vimto Soft Drinks and Newton-le-Willows based Nichols plc retain the license alongside other favourites like Panda Pops. Under their Cabana name they manufacture a fair range of soft drinks and post-mix solutions – both at home and overseas to around 80 plus countries. Outside of the traditional market, Vimto enjoys huge presence in the middle-east and Arabian countries. It is made in Yemen, The Gambia and the Saudi Arabian city of Dammam City. It is apparently produced under license (since 1979 by Aujan & Brothers) in order for demand around Ramadan and other occasions that demand fasting. Vimto is so international that it is even made by Mehran Bottlers in Pakistan, is once again back in India, and Nepal’s Himganga Beverage Pvt Ltd. There are currently no products available in China or Taiwan or Hong Kong. Macau? No.

Granby Row has a park now, called Vimto Park with a statue to the drink. It’s a very Mancunian statue erected in 1992. Most cities celebrate iconic politicians and movements, but Manchester being Manchester, we celebrate the birth of a soft drink. The artist Kerry Morrison carved wood from a sustainable forest. Again, forward-thinking and considerate!

12th July 2015 Manchester centre and City campus (15)

Anyway, I’m sat in Dongguan, China, parched and thinking, maybe, I need a meeting. Who wants to invest? Drop me a line. During these COVID-19 outbreak time, we need more sunshine. Let’s bring the purple to the red land of China.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – Was it Mohandas Gandhi who said that? Arleen Lorrance?

Round Our Way

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do / S’mae / Namaste


TOUR

Well, I’ve booked flights to return to Blighty on the 31st of July, with the return to China slotted in on the 15th of September. That follows four days in Yokohama (Japan) watching English Premier League Champions Manchester City, and a trip that takes in Nanjing, Shanghai and Hong Kong to see the City face West Ham Utd, Europa League-bound Wolves or Newcastle Utd and then Kitchee SC. It is expensive and beyond my bank balance, but you only live once, I think. Money isn’t all there is to life. If your nation is billions in debt and U.S.A. is trillions in debt, and you don’t fully agree with capitalism, then flip it, live for the moment and the future, at the expense of yesterday. We can always make more money, but we can’t make more days of living. Our species has had more warnings than we care fit. Godzilla: King of Monsters, even delivers this cheesy message. Just do thes best you can, and to quote Braveheart, every man dies, not every man really lives. Something like that.


IMG_5346.JPGI may die without offspring, and in debt but I’ll be damned if I will die unhappy. If I pass on a few smiles and some good advice along the way, then I am happy. Morbidly happy. I can’t wait to get back and enjoy summer with family and close friends. I miss so many good friends. I certainly miss my family. Homesickness seems to creep in as the football season ends, and my eyes firmly focus on a summer trip home. It has happened this way since 2015. This year my holiday is extended by a few weeks – and also, I will request Christmas off, to visit home. I need to see my family I owe it to them.


MANC AIRPORT ANNIVERSARY 2013 (25)Summer in the U.K. will probably see some football, London for the Community Shield, a few Premier League games, some Aberystwyth Town jaunts and whatever suits. I hope to see Bristol Balloon Festival when near our Ace’s. Chadderton Duck Race should be in there for Dr Kershaw’s Hospice. There has to be an airshow to visit. Perhaps some Tour of Britain cycling action, Vincent Kompany’s Testimonial game and a memorial tree planting. Everything is possible with your own powerful mind. Oh, and Doves near Acton town. That’s a must. Perhaps the Ramsbottom World Black Pudding Throwing Championships. Sadly, I fly back the week before Egremont Crabbing Fair & World Gurning Championships. Hopefully, I will find a way to see the great Lancaster Bomber fly, whether over Saddleworth, Southport or Blackpool, I don’t know!


I want to spend some of summer researching my family tree too. I know so little about my heritage.

gran and aunty sue

My Mother’s side:

Ivy Harrison was born on Densmore Street in Failsworth.  At the age of five Ivy attended Mathers Street Council School in 1930.  On April the 13th 1939 Ivy became a machinist making night clothes for Smith and Nephew (a Hollinwood based company).  In 1943 during the Second World War Avro Ltd. recruited Ivy to make munitions and aircraft pieces. Parachutes were also made. The war effort needed everything. In the wake of a recovering U.K. climate during 1949, Ivy married John Hitchin.  In May of that year, Carolyn Hitchin was born.  In 1955 John Hitchin died from a severe heart attack.  Ivy became a widow aged thirty.  And in 1956, Ivy’s mother died aged sixty-nine.

In late December 1956, Ivy remarried, to John Roberts.  John came from a long line of North-Wales’ Welsh men. Susan Ivy Roberts was born upon the 5th of October 1957. Soon after, Ivy’s third child Elaine June Roberts was born upon the 20th of June 1961. John Roberts died in my early years. My Gran remarried at the deathbed of her companion Ernest Freeman. She would pass away as a widow in February 2014 and leave behind family who miss her most dearly.

To be continued…

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye / Hwyl Fawr / Dhanyabaad / Alavidā

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J6: 2005 – Granddad Ernie

On the 10th of April 2005, following a lengthy period in Fairclough Hospital, in Bury, Ernie died.  A few weeks before his death he had married my Granny.  The wedding was held within the hospital owing to his ill health.  The hospital provided a ring and the cake.  Mum found out on the phone later that night.  I had visited Ernie only a week before his death.  He looked very ill, very underweight and was incoherent.  He still knew who I was and gave welcome to me by his bedside.  Granny and I walked him to the toilet, but this seemed to strain him of any strengths he had left.  Granny and Ernie had looked after me when my sister was taken to hospital after she was knocked down.  On the day we went to the local station and watched as the trains passed by.  That night I stayed my Granny’s house.  There were many of the times during the difficult week that followed that merited a waterfall of tears.

 

 

On a Tuesday, some days later, myself, Paul, Paul junior, and Astrid set off to Granny’s house.  Granny had lived in north Manchester, in Moston for over 16 years.  In 1989 Granny had met Ernie.  They became very close friends and eventually moved in together.  Ernie would always look after my Granny.  Granny and Ernie would always visit us in south Manchester.  We would sometimes visit markets together.  Ernie would look out for many collectable goods, e.g. steam memorabilia.  We would sometimes visit museums and places where we could see working steam engines and many other engineering pieces.  Ernie was a steam enthusiast.  One Christmas when I was young and still at primary school Ernie and Granny treated me to a working steam engine model.  I was very proud to be given such a gift.  The gift had clearly cost my Granny and Ernie a large amount of money, but it would always be of sentimental value. I plan to power it up this February.

We arrived at Granny’s house for noon.  Paul junior and Astrid went to the shop to buy some fizzy drinks.  Myself and Paul had a cup of tea with Granny.  Aunty Carolyn and her husband Phil arrived with my cousin Kelly soon after, as well as my Great Uncle Eric and Great Aunty Mary.   A few friends of the family also attended.  Many well wishers passed by and offered my Granny their deepest sympathies.

The procession set out and arrived later on at the cemetery.  A procession passed through Blakeley and most of Moston.  We passed some kids and in my mind, I had judged them to be no good kids but one of them removed his cap to reveal that he was paying huge respect to the passing procession.  This was a touching moment.  We arrived at the cemetery close to half two in the afternoon.  The coffin was carried into a large room, within this large room stood the priest of the front.  The priest recited some sermons and read aloud some psalms.  He then paid tribute to Ernie Freeman.  The final piece of music before we left the room was that of a steam engine puffing up and sounding its horn.  Outside the priest thanked us and offered us his blessing.  Flowers were lay on the ground outside as a tribute to the man we were paying respect to that day.

I sat in the funeral car, and the door blew in the breeze.  The door creaked.  Ernie would have oiled the car door, or taken it apart just to fix the problem.  This thought made me cry.  I will always miss him and will always wish that I’d got to know him better.  He was a very interesting man who I admired greatly.  He was honest, caring and considerate.  He was witty and a true gentleman.  Even though he was not my real biological grandfather I will always call him my granddad.

Our procession then went to a public house in Fallowfield, of the name of The Willow.  Here we ate sandwiches and had a few drinks in the final way of paying tribute to Ernie.

My Granddad George was admitted to hospital once again in March 2005, and the next month did not look so bright for family matters. Dad’s friend Bert died on the day his wife was buried in early April 2005. It seemed to be a cursed year. It made me feel helpless.

My Granddad, George Acton passed away. I won’t write about this now. I want to write far more about each grandparent soon.

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye