I WAS very sad to learn through the pages of the SLTN (December 13, 2012) of the tragic death of John Morton, who must surely have been the last of the old-style whisky reps.
No portfolios of brands, no laptops or tablets and no mobile phones – happy days – just a cigarette packet or a scrap of paper.
I first knew John when I worked in Glasgow in the mid 1960s and John was the rep for Bulloch Lade Scotch whisky. He was surely the best-dressed salesman on the road, a kenspeckle figure if ever I saw one, always immaculate as though he had just stepped out of Hector Powes window.
No rushing in and out in those days; he always had time to spend with his customer and pass on bits of news from the trade but never forgetting what he was in for, to get the order.
This approach paid off, because when John left DCL (Diageo) and joined Stanley P. Morrison, wherever he called in this new guise he got an order for his new brand – not because of the brand but because of his personality.
When I moved to the ‘far east’ from the ‘dear green place’ in 1983, John was one of the first reps to visit me in the Blackness Inn and the last time I met him he was still visiting Eastbourne each summer to play in the veterans tennis tournaments as well as tripping the light fantastic in the ballroom.
Sadly, we live in different times today and there is no place for the John Mortons, Jimmy Weirs, Dougie Rennies, and Charlie Coxes in this fast-moving world, but I wonder!
Until my recent retirement, my pouring brand for the last 47 years was the brand which was represented by a man who took the time to speak to me, the junior bartender, on the head man’s day off, when many other reps just left a card and told me to let the boss know that they had called.
Perhaps there is a message for all the marketing gurus out there. The last time I had a visit from an ‘area sales executive’ I knew more about the brand and the company than she did.
I will certainly raise a glass to that last gentleman of the road, John Morton.