Sunday, 23 September 2012

Lyle's Lion

Lyle's Golden Syrup - used by bakers everywhere and one of the most iconic tins in Britain.  Recently I seem to be seeing it in a lot of interiors magazines - holding candles or plants or being used for storage.


Have you ever really looked at the picture on the tin?  It depicts a dead lion with a swarm of bees around it.  It seems a strange image to adorn a tin of food, but it would appear that the story behind it comes from the Bible (Judges 14:5-18) and it's a pretty horrible tale!  In the story, Samson kills a lion, the next time he passes the carcass, a swarm of bees have made a honeycomb in it.  He makes up a riddle about this "out of the strong, something sweet" - and that's why it is on the tin!  Abram Lyle was a very religious man.  This trade mark was registered in 1904, although syrup was first put into tins in 1885.

 
Here's the Greenock connection - did you know that Abram Lyle (1820-1891) was born in Greenock?  In fact, he was a former provost (mayor) of Greenock in the 1870s.  His family were coopers in the town and Abram went into the shipping business, especially the importing of sugar from the East and West Indies.  He later founded the firm of Abram Lyle & Sons, sugar refiners.  He once owned one of my favourite buildings in Greenock - the Glebe sugar refinery, which you can read about here.


He opened a refinery in London, not far from that of his business rival, Henry Tate (of Tate Gallery fame).  The two companies were joined in 1921 after both men were dead.  Thus we have the company of Tate & Lyle, which had a refinery in Greenock until the 1980s.


So, the next time you open a tin of syrup or treacle, just remember the story of the logo and the Greenock connection!

Love, Liz

27 comments:

sky-blu-pink said...

Thanks for the story, Liz, most interesting! I must admit I hadn't noticed the lion was dead! My new tin has Happy and Glorious on it, a nice Jubilee souvenir.

VintageVicki said...

Thats an interesting story :)

Those tins are everywhere this year - MsBridgewater is charging vast amounts of money for cans in that style of tin!!

Kandi said...

Fascinating, I have wondered at that before but never taken the time too look into it. That building is stunning, I will have to visit Greenock one day. xx

Rose H (UK) said...

Blimey Liz, I must go around with my eyes half shut...I didn't realise the poor lion was dead, let alone surrounded by a swarm of bees! Thank you for opening my eyes to the story of this much used and iconic trade mark that sits on shelves in so many homes :o)
Hope you're having a good day.
Rose H

Deborah said...

Great post, hubby loves this on his porridge!

Bee happy x

magie said...

I must admit as well, I never had a good look at the picture on the tin..never realized it was a dead lion.
Thanks so much for sharing the story behind it..I found it very interesting :)
Magie x

Anonymous said...

I have always thought that was a pretty depressing depiction of a lion on a tin of such sweetness. But it's still a great British icon isn't it?

Celestial Charms said...

Hi Liz,
I was oh so tickled pink by this post today. I enjoy reading about interesting details that I would never know otherwise. These tins have always caught my eye, so I'm not surprised by their recent upsurge in usage for home decor. We usually only see them in specialty or import stores, here in the States, not usually available at the local grocers...too bad!
Hope you are enjoying your weekend!
Maureen

Lakota [Faith Hope and Charity Shopping] said...

I remember my dad explaining the story to me when I was a kid. I found it very unlikely that bees would choose to make a nest in a decaying lion! I do love the tins though, and always choose one in preference to the squeezy plastic tubes. Mmm, golden syrup...

Anne said...

Hi Liz, who would have thought it? I can honestly say I have never studied the tin that closely and dont think I have ever noticed the dead lion or the bees!

vintage grey said...

Neat history on the logo! Beautiful refinery! Love old brick buildings! xo Heather

Mum said...

I've never studied the tin and I will now, thank you for the fascinating story.
Love from Mum
xx

Anna @ Miss Beatrix said...

I didn't know the story behind the image on the tin, how interesting! I love the Lyle's tins as they are so iconic and timeless - I drill holes in mine and pop tealights in them to make lanterns.

June said...

I didn't know the story behind the image either and hadn't really studied it to realize it was a dead lion and a swarm of bees. When I was very young about 4 years old I went to play with a neighbours child and they had a tin of treacle on the table for their tea. I was offered this delicacy and said "Ugh, I'm not going to eat something that looks like tarmac!" Precocious or what! My mum's friend still reminds my mum of this whenever they meet!
June

Miss Simmonds Says said...

I hadn't noticed that before - now I shall point it out to everyone whether they want to know it or not xx

My Vintage Mending said...

I would have never thought it was a swarm of bees. How interesting...thank you for the wonderful history...smiles...Renee

**Anne** said...

I love hearing about stories like this. We use to have golden syrup in nice tins downunder, now they come in plastic tubs. :(
Anne xx

blackenpot said...

Hi, i did not know the tale behind the lion. Facinating Liz.

Thank you for sharing and enjoy your new week.

OhSoVintage said...

Interesting story. I have never looked at the picture before but have been buying this for a long, long time.

Used-to-Bees said...

It is such an iconic image, yet I think you have proved on here that not many people have really noticed the detail before! I have a big stack of tins awaiting a 'project' - didn't realise lots of others had already got inspired by them! The sugar refinery looks fab - I would love a 'loft' type home with those windows!
x

flowers on my table said...

Fascinating post Liz. I always noticed the lion on the tin, but not the bees, how funny! I got a lovely tin recently, especially for the Jubilee, with a crown on it. I must use it creatively when the syrup is done. Love Linda x

Paulette said...

What a interesting logo and story about the logo. This has a great post, thanks.

gilly said...

What a lovely and interesting story, and thanks for introducing us to another great Scotsman. There are so many things in this world that were created/invented by great Scots!
Have a good week,
xx

Vintage Jane said...

I am ashamed to say the tin has always just been there and I never really noticed what was on it. What a fascinating story! M x

Jeannie Marie said...

I never heard that story before! So glad I stopped by!

Jo said...

I had never thought to actually look at the tin properly, I always thought it was just a picture of a lion. What an interesting back story!

Bijou Sugar-Socks said...

wow! learn something new everyday :) thanks for this liz :) i am taking note of the bible passage cos i have never really read that part :)