Sheila Woodhouse, Mayor of Abergavenny presented the inaugural Abergavenny SweetieFest Sweetie Hero Award 2013 to Fred Bray at our Christmas Fair on Sun 8 Dec.
Here’s the text that was used for the presentation:
Abergavenny SweetieFest Sweetie Hero Award 2013
If we consider our British sweeties as not just a simple piece of confection, and if we look at them more closely, we find that they hold many stories.
Sweets of boiled sugar, transformed into candies or toffees, have been made all over the UK for hundreds of years. These humble sweets, particularly in poor areas, provided mothers with an income to feed their children as well as a means of local pride (think of the many sweets belonging to specific place names, such as Everton Toffee, Jesmond Bullets, Edinburgh Rock and also Wales’ Lossin Dant mints). Our sweets symbolise the ingenuity, hard work and quirky imagination of those who invent and make them; all these are qualities are quintessentially British, too which is why we make sweets like nowhere else in the world. Think of the Curly Wurly, made with complex equipment by engineers trained in the car trade of the Midlands, or the complex pressing jigs invented by Swizzels Matlow to print words of compressed candies.
There was no award specifically honouring our wonderful confectionery industry…but there is now.
The first recipient of the Abergavenny SweetieFest Sweetie Hero award, which in future will be open to all of Great Britain, is Wales’ own Fred Bray. This Merthyr boy is the living epitome of ingenuity, resourcefulness, hard work and the wicked sense of humour characteristic of us Brits, as well as the grittiness and passion associated with this part of Wales. The Bray Confectionery dynasty, still going strong today, started prior to the 1880s in South Wales. In 1896 one of Fred’s ancestors gave John Mackintosh the recipe for the Special Toffee that made that particular company famous; in his own lifetime Fred has made Colliers Lumps specially for miners, (to ease their throats down the mines), has supplied the House of Lords with Welsh Lossin Dant Mints, another Bray trademark, and even made fruit out of molten sugar for Rolf Harris. Fred was a regular favourite with visitors to St Fagins, where he made toffee ‘live’ every weekend.
The award itself is based on a rare regional delicacy from Nottingham. The Sugar Chook, a sort of lollipop made in the shape of a proud rooster, looks like an expensive piece of Murano glass; so we went one further and modelled the trophy, in Murano glass style, in honour of the sweet. It was made by Herefordshire-based Laney Mead.