Fishermans Friends, Lancashire
There are some British traditions that take a bit of explanation: Morris Dancing; Test Cricket; and the defying of Black Rod for example. And then there are some which almost defy explanation, Fisherman’s Friends being one of these.
These strangest of confections are rooted in the Victorian era when patent medicines were often the only affordable medicaments for the common man and woman. A pharmacist in Fleetwood , James Lofthouse, first made a linctus with the same main ingredients as are now contained in the lozenge in 1865. The target market was the trawlermen working out of the then very significant fishing port of Fleetwood in the icy Atlantic and Icelandic fisheries, and Lofthouse developed the lozenge to make things easier for the fishermen – filling a teaspoon from a bottle while riding giant waves cannot have been fun.
The idea was that the menthol, liquorice, and eucalyptus confections would soothe sore throats and ease bronchial problems, and they may well have aided in this, as well as giving a little sugar boost to men working in appalling weather. But the sweet is above all warming – not for the half-hearted or the pallid palate. The taste is hard to describe, and merits the epithet ‘acquired’. There is strong menthol and eucalyptus, though the various flavours blend into what can best be described as an attack. But those who enjoy them swear by the product. And with a bit of clever marketing from the 1970s onwards by the sole and original producers, those who enjoy them can be found all over Europe and beyond. There are new flavours now too, but the benchmark remains the original version.