MEMORIES 412 told how Jennie Heseltine set a world record in Evenwood in the early 1950s by performing the fastest wet shave ever.

She started her shaving career in “the Tab” – a billiards hall in the village. On the wall of the Tab was a sign advertising “Rubicon”. What, we asked, was Rubicon.

“I can remember my father used to chew a baccy of that brand name when he worked down the pit at Thornley, near Peterlee,” replied Ken Orton. “He only used it if he couldn’t get his usual brand, Ladies’ Twist. I often had to go to the local shop to fetch it for him.

“He chewed it because matches and cigarette lighters were forbidden in mines on pain of immediate dismissal, and even prosecution, due to the fire hazard of combustible gases.”

George Patterson added: “I was brought up in the Ferryhill area in the late 1930s and there were Rubicon signs on some shop fronts and I am 99 per cent sure that it was for pipe tobacco.”

Indeed, all the Durham coalfield was asmoke with Rubicon tobacco because it was manufactured in Newcastle by the Sinclairs.

Anyone who knows Newcastle will be aware of the Robert Sinclair tobacco building on St James’ Boulevard, just north of the Redheugh Bridge. It was here in 1856 that Robert and his brother, John, began business as tobacco dealers.

Their partnership dissolved in 1886 and John set himself up in Bath Lane. One of Robert’s biggest lines was indeed Ladies’ Twist, which was popular among chewers in the mines (and policemen, who also couldn’t smoke on duty) whereas John’s Rubicon brand was his most popular pipe tobacco.

On the grounds that you cannot smoke too much of a good thing, Sinclairs made Rubicon Brown, Rubicon Coil, Rubicon Flake, Rubicon Mixture, Rubicon Navy Cut, Rubicon Prime, Rubicon Shag, Rubicon Spun Cut, Rubicon Ready Rubbed, Rubicon Twist, Rubicon Thick Twist and Rubicon Pigtail.