The sweet tale of Dick ‘Dynamite’ Taylor
With thanks to Naomi Parsons, Site Supervisor, Lancaster City Museum
Today we’re delving into the story of one fascinating man, Dick ‘Dynamite’ Taylor; sweet maker and local hero.
A look through the directory for Morecambe in the 1930s reveals no less than 80 individual confectioners, chocolatiers and sweet sellers; a testament to the sweet tooth of the seaside holiday maker. Dick Taylor was arguably the most well-known of these. Born 1878 in Clitheroe, his working life started not as a sugar boiler but as a fireman at White Lund National Filling Factory. A dangerous profession at any time, on 1st October 1917, the factory at White Lund caught fire and exploded; Dick was on duty that night. Dick went into one of the burning buildings and carried out colleague William Topping before going back to continue trying to extinguish the fire. He spent the whole night attempting to put out the fire as it spread from building to building, all whilst shells were exploding around him. The fire eventually forced him and the one remaining fireman back. Five of his colleagues lost their lives that night.
The following year Richard (Dick) Taylor was awarded the Medal of the Order of the British Empire for his bravery. His award stated that he “Displayed great courage and resource on the occasion of a severe explosion at a national filling factory”. The following year he also received a framed testimonial from the Society of the Preservation of Life in June 1919.
The National Filling Factory was so badly damaged that it was out of action for the remainder of the war; though it seems Dick stayed on as fireman as part of the team overseeing the decommission of the shells still scattered all around the site and in 1918 he started tinkering with making boiled sugar confectionery at home on Thornton Road. His first creation was a stick of toffee which quickly became popular with friends, colleagues, the Morecambe F.C. crowds at Christie Park where he started to sell them and then to customers at Morecambe Market. His success quickly led to the starting up of a small shop at 39 Pedder Street where he developed a line in boiled sugar sweets, toffees and seaside rock. His background as a fireman at the explosives factory, coupled with the brown sticks of toffee resulted in the shop moniker Taylor’s Noted Toffee (TNT) and Dick’s lifelong nickname Dick ‘Dynamite’ Taylor was created.
His career as a sugar boiler went from strength to strength alongside Morecambe’s peak as a holiday resort, with a move to larger premises (‘Rock Corner’) at 3 Pedder Street in 1925, followed by the opening of a second shop on Highfield Promenade in the West End in 1928. Despite huge numbers of competitors, Dick ‘Dynamite’ Taylor and his ‘Noted toffees’ was one of the principal confectioners for decades. Many fondly recall watching demonstrations of him making rock and in later years, a rumour persisted that Dick was the person who had invented rock which had lettering running through it. Sadly it appears that he was beaten by about 50 years to this by Dewsbury sugar boiler, Ben Bullock. The confusion seems to stem from an earlier Morecambe sweet maker, ALSO called Dynamite Dick who started making lettered rock in 1894.
Dick was a well-respected member of numerous groups, associations and community events; he was ‘Father Christmas’ for many years at Morecambe Christmas social events in the 1950s, giving out huge quantities of his own sweets to children. He continued his support of Morecambe Football Club where he started his confectionery career, selling penny sticks of toffee in 1918 but also of Clitheroe FC, his hometown, where he also donated proceeds from sales of his sweets and where his big personality was always well received. Dick passed away in 1967 at the age of 88.
Information about Dick’s gallantry award can be found on the King’s Own Royal Regiment page here- http://www.kingsownmuseum.com/1917-exhibition-020.htm