Bert's Nut Browns
Bert Wiseman was born in November 1927 in Poplar, East London, well within the sound of Bow Bells. He grew up in Dagenham where his boyhood hobbies included cycling, carpentry, the ATC, collecting shrapnel - and of course smoking, which he first took up in secret as a twelve-year old and continued to enjoy for the next 60 years. Although partial to a cigar on occasion, he always preferred to roll his own cigarettes and bought Nut Brown tobacco for at least 30 years - possibly because it was cheaper than other brands, possibly just because it was slightly out of the ordinary.
Bert’s youthful ambition to be a Royal Navy pilot was thwarted when the war failed to keep going for long enough, but he served in the Fleet Air Arm from 1945-1947 as an aircraft mechanic and spent time in both Hong Kong and Singapore. After demobilisation Bert had a wide variety of jobs, including spells as a shoemaker and a typewriter mechanic. He saved his money to fund regular cycling tours in the Alps and South of France - which often also entailed finding a new job when he returned. In 1954 he married his wife Kath, finally buckling down to a “steady” job with British Railways at Kath’s father’s insistence.
Moving to Wickford, Essex in 1958, Bert built his own shed (the first of several, all still in use) where he spent evenings and weekends making furniture, planning DIY and electronics projects, drinking tea, smoking, and gradually filling hundreds of empty tobacco tins with screws, nails, washers and other useful things. Family life moved on with the arrival of daughter Sally in 1961. Before she started school Bert taught the lucky girl to hand roll a cigarette (long before Political Correctness), use a hammer and saw (pre- Health & Safety) and ride a bike, among many other important life skills.
Bert’s BR career progressed over the years, but he sometimes saw it as a bit of an inconvenience that kept him from the stuff he was really interested in - photography, classical music, growing vegetables, building his own hi-fi, fishing and a hundred other things. When the chance came in 1982 to take early retirement, he was off like a shot, and made the most of the next 25 years. He took up long-distance walking and tackled the Pennine Way, South West Coast path and many other routes, usually on his own in fortnight-long chunks. He gave up smoking in 1988, but always had a Nut Brown tin with him on his travels, filled with vital supplies - sachets of salt, pepper and sugar.
Bert died in August 2014 after a long (non-smoking related) illness, and is much missed by his family and many friends. One of his guiding principles was never to throw away anything that could come in useful one day, and he would have been quietly pleased (but probably not surprised), that his tobacco tins are now embarking on an exciting new life as Tinamps which you can own and keep in your shed. Keep the faith.