EDITOR INTERVIEW In conversation with...

Peter Vickers, Chairman and outgoing Managing Director of Vickers Oils, manufacturer of specialty and environmentally acceptable lubricants (EALs)

Vickers Oils has a fascinating almost 200-year old lubricants history. How did it begin? Two hundred years ago, our family heroine, Mary Randall Vickers (my great-great-great grandmother) was running her late husband’s patten-making business, with two of her sons. Pattens were wooden soles mounted on an iron ring, to lift the wearer out of the mud and so keep their ordinary shoes dry. With Mary’s death in 1826, and to diversify from increasing local patten maker competition elder brother, Benjamin Randall Vickers established a separate business; By May 1828 the Vickers family was selling oils and soaps. We’ve been at it ever since.

As the company’s 5th generation ‘custodian’, how important is it to honour the original values of your forefathers? Are those values part of today’s company ethos? Yes, indeed. We still have Benjamin Randall Vickers’ Memorandum which sets out his thinking and his business principles: “not riches”, but merely to maintain his previous standard of living, with a little in reserve; “to contribute to the comfort of the poor and suffering”; and “to support the interests of Christ in the church and the world”.

Those fundamental values have applied throughout, interpreted slightly differently by each generation. to make sense for the changing times:

Today, the greatest challenge is of course sustainability: are we willing to change our ways of life fast and far enough to reduce the damage of climate change and other environmental impacts? That’s been part of my own passion about the development of EALs.

Vickers Oils has been at the heart of marine lubricants innovation since the 19th century (one of your marine lubricant brands has a 1900 trademark!). Was it inevitable that you would be


the first company to develop and commercialise EALs (environmentally acceptable lubricants)? As a historian, I’m not sure anything is inevitable! But it certainly helped that we are a privately owned SME which takes a long-term view. In 1993 a Swedish customer suggested to me that we should develop a biodegradable version of one of our existing stern-tube oils; it took nine years of lab work and sea trials before we had a marketable product – just as the first real demand emerged in the Baltic, the Great Lakes and the Florida based cruise industry.

Covid19 has derailed society and commerce, at least for now; how do you see the industry and our lifestyles, adapting to the ‘new normal’? The word “normal” implies something fair, known, reliable, settled, sustainable but we’re a structurally unfair world, The virus gives us an unparalleled opportunity to build on the generous, selfless instincts and behaviours of neighbourliness, compassion and consideration for others that have re-remerged during these last weeks and to establish a new model or ‘normal’.

After 25 years as MD you recently passed the baton to your technical director, Chris Wholley. Why did you step down?

Chris has been Deputy MD for some time now and is ideally placed to take on the entire role. My task now as Chair is to support the transition from a family- managed business to a family-governed business; and I am looking forward to the business’ bicentenary celebrations in 2028.

The full interview with Peter Vickers is available to read on the Lube Media website;


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