Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Ghost Signs & Bile Beans: A Family Mystery Solved!

There was a very interesting feature on ghost signs on the regional programme Inside Out up here in the north last week that I very much enjoyed and found very enlightening.

For anyone unfamiliar with the term ghost sign, it refers to the old hand painted advertising signage that has been preserved on a building over time, kept for either nostalgic reasons or just sheer indifference on the owner's part. The lead in the paint back in the day means that the adverts have kept strongly adhered to the masonry, a fascinating faded symbol of yesteryear.

One of the examples highlighted on the Inside Out programme was one for Bile Beans, a long forgotten product that has long been of curious interest in my family. One of my late grandfather's many sayings was, often in reference to someone lazy or somewhat weak; "There's more energy in a bile bean"

This meaning behind this remark often alluded us. What on earth was a bile bean anyway? 

It was only when watching this programme that we learnt that Bile Beans were a laxative pill, devised in Australia in 1899 but now long gone, which went on to become a brand leader here in the UK from the 1930s onwards.

Which was where these ghost signs originate from. One prime example of the Bile Bean ghost sign showcased in the programme hails from York - a city I've visited often with family, but peculiarly have never spied or noticed the sign - which has been given a new lease of life thanks to a restoration project repainting it to its former glory.



I love the restoration of that, but like some of the ghost sign fans interviewed on Inside Out I do think some should stay as they are, a vision of the past right here in our midst.

Do you enjoy ghost signs? Are there any in your area? What do you think of the restoration of them? 

Have you ever heard my grandfather's saying before or was it original to him?! 

Let me know!

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