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Memoirs of a Jam Boiler

             by Peter Moorhouse [son of F.G. Moorhouse]

I started work at Beeston full time in Sept/0ct 1958 although I had attended sales conferences from a relatively early age and worked in the QC laboratory at Beeston in the school holidays.

But as anybody who knew F.G. will appreciate it was a question of "If you want to work in the business you can start as a jam boiler". Thus it was that I presented myself to Miss Webster or possibly Alice Madely and was given a white boiler suit.


I then reported to Harry Thaxter, foreman of the Boiling Room and was attached to a boiling gang as the ingredients weigher, operating from the back of the pans weighing out all the ingredients except sugar. Over a period of some months I progressed through the job of "wheeler-off" jam was not pumped then but poured from the steam boiling pan into two pans each holding 75 lbs and fitted into a wheeled trolley, having passed QC each pan was lifted and poured into the cooler prior to being filled.

The boiling gang I worked with was Henry Longbottom (Jam boiler) and Ted Latham (wheeler off), although I remember many others in the boiling room; Jimmy Kellet (charge-hand), Albert Blakey, Bill Batty, Tom Gallagher.

Two things I remember particularly from my first day - by lunchtime I needed a clean boiler suit, others kept their overalls clean, in the early days I never managed to. Secondly I remember how exhausted I was after working my first day as a wheeler-off, I worked out how much hot jam I had lifted and the answer was in tons.

It is difficult at this distance of time not to see things through rose coloured spectacles, particularly since I was a member of the family, but I recall this period between Autumn 1958 and Autumn 1960 as being one of the happiest times of my working life. There genuinely did seem to be a great "buzz" about the place and a sense of commitment, a lot of leg pulling and although the work was physically hard it was fun and I was as fit as I have ever been.


I progressed from the Boiling Room to Mincemeat and Christmas Pudding manufacture (Foremen Albert Goddard and Bernard Harris).

I spent sometime with the coopers - Head Cooper Tommy Hepworth, an imposing man physically and personally. At that time most of the fruit was preserved in sulphur dioxide in solution as sulphurous acid ( H 2 S0 3 ) and kept in 3 cwt. (336 lbs) barrels. I used to check the barrel count with Tommy at the annual stock take, in January, always cold in the barrel yard at that time of the year, we relieved the boredom of the stocktaking by betting a pint on each of our mistakes, somehow it always came out evens at the end although I suspect that Tommy turned a blind eye to many of my mistakes.


I also worked in the bottle fruit dept in the fruit season; this product is long gone now. Various sizes of bottle up to 1 gallon were filled with fruits as they came into season; rhubarb, gooseberries, Victoria plums Rivers red plums, Czar plums, blackcurrants, bilberries. A metal cap secured by a spring clip sealed the bottle and it was then placed in a large tank in which the bottles were boiled, the water was drained once cooking was complete, the bottles were then lifted out, the clips taken off since by then the cap was secured by vacuum and the bottles were stacked to a height of at least 15 feet. At the end of the season the warehouse was "a riot of colours". Two other memories of this process, firstly an appalling back ache after loading and unloading the bottles into and out of the tanks and secondly a blistered thumb from taking off the clips.


The product was sold to bakers or restaurants and canteens for use in fruit pies and tarts, replaced nowadays by so called 'fruit pie fillers'. One of the 'ace' users was Mrs Harris the canteen manageress who was the most wonderful pastry cook.

There were many other departments, some of which I worked in others unfortunately I never got around to before Schweppes moved me to London. The labelling and packaging dept (Ron(?) Bradbury). The Transport Dept (Harry Hutchinson). The Garage under Jack Hepworth who with his staff maintained a large fleet of lorries and reps cars, his deputy Jack Ward who in addition to his garage duties chauffeured both Joe and F.G. and also got the writer out of an embarrassing situation when my car battery went flat rather late at night and having borrowed a car to get me home and get me to the factory next morning Jack took a battery out to my car returned the borrowed car and got my car to the factory - all before F.G. arrived at the factory. Apropos of F.G. arriving at the factory, he was never the earliest starter in the morning but justified this by a saying which curiously only seemed to apply to him " It's not the long spender of the day, it's the well spender of the day"

Turning to the "white collar" side of the business and in particular the senior management.

Stanley Everson, Works Manager, one of three brothers working in the Leeds factory, he joined the company as a lorry boy and worked his way up to a position which undoubtedly would nowadays have carried the title of Director.

Bill Garner, Sales Manager a man of immaculate manners, accent and commitment.

Aled Williams, deputy sales manager, a mercurial Welshman, a brilliant and humorous conference speaker and a superb motivator of salesmen.

Charles Beresford, an accountant who had a profound effect on the financial side of the business. He introduced standard costing to the company.



Les Buckley, advertising manager. A brilliant designer of labels, conference sets and something of an unsung hero since he was a shy man with a bad stammer, the result, I believe, of having been blown out of the water three times in the space of two or three days whilst serving in the Royal Navy in WW2.

John Selby, Chief Engineer. Gordon Amery, Chief Chemist. Walter Waddington, Chief Buyer, and one of the toughest buyers in the business (I watched him operate in both Leeds and London when I worked to him as assistant buyer).

There are many I must have left out; virtually all the forewomen, I can only remember one by name, Maudie Gallagher, in the Mincemeat and Christmas Pudding Dept. I do however remember the Filling room forewoman sending one of her girls home on a particularly cold morning because she was wearing trousers!!

Times change!

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