Belfast Telegraph

Claim Belfast man invented Polo not hole truth insists Nestle

By Ivan Little

The makers of one of the world's most famous mints have tried to blow a hole in the claim that Polos were invented by a Belfast man.

Online histories of the hugely popular sweets say Polos were pioneered by John Bargewell, who was originally from the Antrim Road and worked for Rowntree in York.

But now Nestle, which took over Rowntree in 1988, has insisted that the internet records don't tell the whole truth about the mint with the hole.

The company says that it was a former chairman of Rowntree called George Harris who invented Polos.

But it couldn't offer any explanation about why Mr Bargewell is listed online as the man who came up with the idea.

Several books, including The World Cup Of Everything, also say that Mr Bargewell was the mastermind of the mint, which has sales running into millions all over the world. However, Nestle heritage manager Alex Hutchinson said: "According to our records and to Robert Fitzgerald's book Rowntree And The Marketing Revolution, Polo was inspired by the US product, Lifesavers, and was the brainchild of George Harris." Mr Hutchinson said he had looked up the internet references to Mr Bargewell and added: "I'm afraid none of the records are trustworthy, as they mention things like the centre of the Polo not being removed until the 1950s, whereas the mints have never had a centre."

He said his company still had some of the original 1948 packets of Polos and they had holes in them. And records from 1948 in York University also call them 'the mint with the hole'.

Mr Bargewell's 85-year-old brother Sam, who still lives in Belfast, said he had only become aware of his brother's links to Polo mints through the internet.

But he added: "John worked for Rowntree in York for many years until his retirement.

"He went to England to serve with the RAF during the Second World War.

"Our home in Eglinton Street in Belfast was destroyed in the Blitz after all of us children had been evacuated to live with families in north Antrim."

The Bargewells' Spanish-born mother Victoria died from cancer while the children were living away from the city as evacuees.

In 2009 John took part in BBC programme The Week We Went To War, returning to Armoy to talk about his experiences there.

He ied three years ago at the age of 87. A death notice in a York newspaper described him as "ex-Rowntree's Polo".

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph