[1996:] Created in 1901 by Robert F. Barr in Parkhead, Glasgow, Irn-Bru began as plain Iron Brew, just one of many so named products - a refreshing mixed flavour drink for which each manufacturer had his own recipe. The company's first label depicted a weightlifter holding aloft a glass of Barr's Iron Brew.
Product advertising has always laid emphasis on fitness and strength. William Barr, chairman 1909-1031, a devotee of strong man George Sandow's body building techniques, could tear a telephone directory apart. Local athletes were enlisted to extol the "brew's" virtues - Willie Lyon, Celtic - "Best restorative for any athlete" - John Blair, Motherwell - "The tonic properties are just what every athlete requires" and later the great Benny Lynch added his endorsement.
During World War II Iron Brew vanished from the shelves, the Government allowing only six standard soft drinks to be manufactured. Iron Brew was not one of them. After the war, just before the industry was in effect denationalised, it was proposed to introduce new food labelling regulations that products had to live up to their labelling's literal meaning. In common with others Iron Brew did not. Just as Ginger Ale was not ale, and American Cream Soda was neither made in America nor contained cream, Iron Brew was not brewed, although it did contain iron as did all similar beverages.
To combat this, Chairman, Robert Barr, came up with the brilliant idea of using a phonetic version of the generic name and, in 1946, "IRN-BRU" was registered as the Trade Name. However, legislation did not come till 1964 and products of long standing were allowed to retain their original name.
From the beginning Barr realised the importance of inventive advertising and part of Irn-Bru's success must be attributed to its brilliant and vigorous promotion over the years.
The adventures of "Ba-Bru and Sandy" - two boys, one a turbaned Indian, one a kilted Scot, forever on the hunt for Barr's Irn-Bru, ran in newspaper columns from the 1930s until the mid 1970s. A few years ago the 'Ba-Bru' neon sign above Central station was removed as it had rusted. The well-loved pair gave way to the highly successful TV campaign which coined the famous catch phrases, "Your other national drink" and "Made in Scotland from girders". [...]
When Harry Ramsden, the most famous fish and chip man in the world, opened a new restaurant in Glasgow, Barr became the main sponsor of the children's fun park - a smart move and a phenomenal success.
'Carnera' was the tallest working horse in the world when he used to deliver Barr's products in the days before lorries ousted horse drawn transportation. Now they are conveyed in the most modern vehicles available which, in keeping with the company's advertising strategy of catching the public's attention, are painted red with lettering in white. (Carol Foreman, Did You Know?, Glasgow City Libraries and Archives, Glasgow, p 9 f.)