Legacy in a Bottle

James Herbert Clarke and the Narrabri Ice Co

 In the late 1800s and early 1900s, cordial making factories sprung up across central-west NSW. With modern single-use plastic bottles yet to be invented, many drinks were sold in glass or ceramic bottles, usually with a cork stopper or stamped metal cap. These particular ceramic bottles contained drinks that were produced by James Herbert Clarke’s (1873-1954) Narrabri Ice Co. LTD in the town of Narrabri, on Gamilaraay country.

As a young man, one of Clarke’s first jobs was with Edmund Fuss, a chemist who had moved into cordial making. After learning the tricks of the trade, Clarke applied these skills to become one of Narrabri’s most notable cordial makers, alongside another successful local, Septimus Faulkner. In 1910, Clarke cemented his place when he was awarded two first place positions for best aerated waters at the Narrabri Annual Show.

Clarke’s involvement within the Narrabri community extended beyond producing delicious beverages. A well-known man about town, he was a respected member of the municipal band, the jockey club, the hospital board, and the rifle club.

By 1954, Clarke was considered the ‘oldest living cordial maker in the state,’ continuing to work even two days prior to his death that same year. This legacy of tireless dedication to the community of Narrabri is now kept safe inside these simple ceramic bottles.