Abram Lyle

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.

Abram Lyle
Born14 December 1820
Died30 April 1891 (aged 70)
OccupationSugar refiner and ship owner

Early life

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

Tate and Lyle building - geograph.org.uk - 1124019
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 warehouse that was used in the past to store sugar in the town's Ocean Terminal.

Personal life

Lyle 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 five sons and one daughter:[8]

  • Abram Lyle (6 October 1847)
  • Sir Alexander Park Lyle, 1st Bt., (2 August 1849 – 10 December 1933)
  • Charles Lyle, (1851 – 13 June 1929)
  • Mary Lyle (1 March 1855 – 6 April 1927)
  • John Lyle (9 March 1857)
  • Sir Robert Park Lyle, 1st and last Bt., (17 October 1859 – 11 July 1923)

Lyle died on 30 April 1891.[9] He has a large memorial in Greenock Cemetery.[10]


  1. ^ Located at 55°57′11″N 4°45′46″W / 55.953065°N 4.76269°W
  1. ^ Chalmin 1990, p. 90.
  2. ^ Dinham & Hines 1984, p. 170.
  3. ^ Maitland, p. 198.
  4. ^ BBC 2006.
  5. ^ Glasgow Herald 1952.
  6. ^ Gloucester Citizen 1877, p. 2.
  7. ^ Barrett & Calvi 2013, p. ix.
  8. ^ Abram Lyle – thePeerage
  9. ^ Beale 2012, p. 73.
  10. ^ [1]


  • "Sweet success for 'oldest brand'". BBC. 28 September 2006. Retrieved 28 September 2006.
  • Barrett, Duncan; Calvi, Nuala (2013). The Sugar Girls: Tales of Hardship, Love and Happiness in Tate & Lyle's East End. Ulverscroft Large Print Books. ISBN 978-1-4448-1369-2.
  • Dinham, Barbara; Hines, Colin (1984). Agribusiness in Africa. Africa World Press. ISBN 978-0-86543-003-7.
  • Chalmin, Philippe (1990). The Making of a Sugar Giant: Tate and Lyle, 1859-1989. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-3-7186-0434-0.
  • Beale, Nicholas (2012). Constructive Engagement: Directors and Investors in Action. Gower Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4094-5782-4.
  • "Greenock Sugar Refinery to close next month". The Glasgow Herald. 12 June 1952. p. 6 col E. Retrieved 19 September 2014 – via Google News Archive Search.
  • Maitland, Vanessa. County of Pembroke, Shipwreck Report: Port of Ngqura, South Africa. Vanessa Maitland.
  • "Representation of Greenock". Gloucester Citizen. 8 December 1877. p. 2 col D. Retrieved 19 September 2014 – via British Newspaper Archive.
Further reading

External links

Golden syrup

Golden syrup or light treacle is a thick amber-coloured form of inverted sugar syrup made in the process of refining sugar cane or sugar beet juice into sugar, or by treatment of a sugar solution with acid. It is used in a variety of baking recipes and desserts. It has an appearance similar to honey and is often used as a substitute where honey is unavailable or prohibitively expensive. Many vegans also use it as a honey substitute.

It is not to be confused with amber corn syrup or amber molasses. Regular molasses, or dark treacle, has both a richer colour and a strong, distinctive flavour.

Formulated by the chemists Charles Eastick and his brother John Joseph Eastick at the Abram Lyle & Sons (now part of Tate & Lyle) refinery in Plaistow, London, Lyle's Golden Syrup was first canned and sold in 1885. In 2006 it was recognised by Guinness World Records as having the world's oldest branding and packaging.


Tate is an institution that houses, in a network of four art museums, the United Kingdom's national collection of British art, and international modern and contemporary art. It is not a government institution, but its main sponsor is the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.The name "Tate" is used also as the operating name for the corporate body, which was established by the Museums and Galleries Act 1992 as "The Board of Trustees of the Tate Gallery".

The gallery was founded in 1897, as the National Gallery of British Art. When its role was changed to include the national collection of modern art as well as the national collection of British art, in 1932, it was renamed the Tate Gallery after sugar magnate Henry Tate of Tate & Lyle, who had laid the foundations for the collection. The Tate Gallery was housed in the current building occupied by Tate Britain, which is situated in Millbank, London. In 2000, the Tate Gallery transformed itself into the current-day Tate, which consists of a network of four museums: Tate Britain, which displays the collection of British art from 1500 to the present day; Tate Modern, also in London, which houses the Tate's collection of British and international modern and contemporary art from 1900 to the present day; Tate Liverpool (founded in 1988), which has the same purpose as Tate Modern but on a smaller scale; and Tate St Ives in Cornwall (founded in 1993), which displays modern and contemporary art by artists who have connections with the area. All four museums share the Tate Collection. One of the Tate's most publicised art events is the awarding of the annual Turner Prize, which takes place at Tate Britain.

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