Fisherman's Friend - Fleetwood's famous throat lozenge

Living History

Fisherman's Friend - Fleetwood's famous throat lozenge

Fisherman's Friend, now a world-famous product, is based upon a liquid developed by pharmacist James Lofthouse in the Lancashire fishing town of Fleetwood in 1865. For the next 100 years, the brand was virtually unknown outside the fishing community.

But thanks to the entrepreneurial skills of Doreen Lofthouse, who married James's grandson Tony, and has recently died aged 91, the cough sweet is now available in 120 countries.

As originally developed, the idea came to James Lofthouse after he had been talking to three deep-sea fishermen. They were unable to speak due to the weather affecting their throats and lungs. Fisherman's Friend was his proposed remedy, initially a very strong liquid in a bottle, that contained menthol and eucalyptus oil. Lofthouse later made the liquid into small lozenges, which were easier to transport and administer. The fishermen - who worked in the extreme conditions of the Northern deep-sea - began referring to them as 'friends'.

The lozenge's current shape was based on the design of the buttons on one of the dresses Doreen Lofthouse used to wear to the office. Under her stewardship, she steadfastly stood by her independent business ethos, and was a pillar of the community in her hometown of Fleetwood - with a trustee of the town's museum claiming that she had 'taken the name Fleetwood all over the world'. He remembered her many contributions over the years, including helping to fund floodlights at the local football club, a lifeboat for the RNLI, as well as public artworks such as the "welcome home" statue for the families of fishermen.

The concept is relatively unchanged since its creation. The Original Extra Strong lozenges contain sugar, liquorice extract, menthol, eucalyptus oil, dextrin, tragacanth, and capsicum tincture. However, the original paper packets later became foil-lined, and they are now sold in a cardboard carton.  

With Lofthouse of Fleetwood Ltd now bringing the company annual revenues of more than £55m and being the town's largest private employer, it has won the Queen's Award to Industry for Export Achievement on three occasions.

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is said to have used the product when her throat became strained from public speaking, and French President Emmanuel Macron apparently uses them too. When speaking publicly, he deploys water, some slices of lemon and a small dish of Fisherman's Friends.

Zara Robinson, from Fleetwood Museum, said that Mrs Lofthouse became aware of the lozenge's popularity when she received letters from holidaymakers who had visited the town. The tourists hoped that they could continue to buy and use them where they lived. "Doreen took it upon herself to visit all these towns to try to sell the lozenge in all these different locations." 

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