Abram Lyle

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Abram Lyle
Born (1820-12-14)14 December 1820
Died 30 April 1891(1891-04-30) (aged 70)
Occupation Sugar refiner and ship owner

Abram Lyle (14 December 1820 – 30 April 1891) is noted for founding the sugar refiners Abram Lyle & Sons which merged with the company of his rival Henry Tate to become Tate & Lyle in 1921.

Early life[edit]

He was born on 14 December 1820 in the seaport of Greenock, Renfrewshire, in Scotland, and at twelve years old became an apprentice in a lawyer's office. He then joined his father's cooperage businesses and in partnership with a friend, John Kerr, developed a shipping business, making the Lyle fleet one of the largest in Greenock. The area was heavily involved in the sugar trade with the West Indies, and his business included transporting sugar.

Sugar refining[edit]

Tate & Lyle syrup refinery at Plaistow Wharf, 2009

Together with four partners he purchased the Glebe Sugar Refinery [a] in 1865, and so added sugar refining to his other business interests. When John Kerr, the principal partner, died in 1872, Lyle sold his shares and began the search for a site for a new refinery.[1]

Together with his three sons he bought two wharves at Plaistow in East London in 1881 to construct a refinery for producing Golden Syrup.[2] The site happened to be around 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from the sugar refinery of his rival, Henry Tate. In the first year Lyle's refinery showed a loss of £30,000, with economies being made by asking staff to wait for their wages on occasion, but eventually the business came to dominate the United Kingdom market for Golden Syrup.[3]

Out of the strong came forth sweetness

The brand, sold in a distinctive green and gold lidded tin with an image of a lion surrounded by bees, is believed to be Britain's oldest. The design of the tin decoration, which includes a biblical quotation, has remained almost unchanged since 1885.[4]

In the Book of Judges, Samson was travelling to the land of the Philistines in search of a wife. During the journey he killed a lion, and on his return past the same spot he noticed that a swarm of bees had formed a comb of honey in the carcass. Samson later turned this into a riddle at a wedding: "Out of the eater came forth meat and out of the strong came forth sweetness".(Judges 14:14) While no one is sure why this particular quotation was chosen, it has been suggested that it refers either to the strength of the Lyle company which delivers the sweet syrup or possibly even to the trademark tins in which the syrup was sold.

Sugar refineries belonging to Tate & Lyle continued as a major industry in Greenock (but with difficulties[5]) until the 1980s, then declining sugar consumption and a shift away from cane sugar led to closure of the last refinery in 1997. There is still a sugar warehouse in the town's Ocean Terminal.

Personal life[edit]

He was Provost of Greenock from 1876 to 1879.[6] An elder of St Michael's Presbyterian Church in Greenock, Lyle himself chose the biblical quotation for the syrup tins. He was a pious man and a strict teetotaller, who once declared that he would "rather see a son of his carried home dead than drunk".[7]

Lyle was the son of Abram Lyle and Mary Campbell. He married Mary Park, daughter of William Park, on 14 December 1846 and the couple had three sons:[8]

  • Sir Alexander Park Lyle, 1st Bt., (2 August 1849 - 10 December 1933)
  • Charles Lyle, (1851 - 13 June 1929)
  • Sir Robert Park Lyle, 1st and last Bt., (17 October 1859 - 11 July 1923)

Abram died on 30 April 1891.[9]

See also[edit]

See also: Oliver Lyle




Further reading

External links[edit]