Lyons Teashops


Courtesy: 'Jake'






Where's George ? - Gone to Lyonch

One of J. Lyons & Company's most successful advertising slogans during the 1930/40s was created by their publicity department quite by accident. 'Where's George ? - Gone to Lyonch' was a hugely popular catch phrase which caught the public imagination.

Originally coined as 'Gone to Lyonch' to encourage more people to use the teashops at lunchtime, it was a chance remark that gave the slogan a new twist. In the Lyons publicity department at that time (situated over a teashop in Fleet Street, London) was an artist whose Christian name was George. A friend called on him one day, couldn't see him at his normal desk and called out 'Where's George? The spontaneous reply from one of his colleagues was 'Gone to Lyonch'. Thus the phrase was born.

One of the first advertisements using the terminology appeared showing an empty peg in a row of hats, coats and umbrellas with the caption 'Where's George ? - Gone to Lyonch'. A popular comedian of the period happened to see the advertisement, drew his face peeking out from behind one of the coats saying 'here', signed it and sent it to the management at Cadby Hall. That man was George Robey.

By 1935 over one hundred subjects had been used in this successful advertising campaign, which continued right up to the start of the Second World War. The phrase passed into everyday talk. Famous cartoonist, comedians and writers adopted it. It inspired the name of a racehorse, a revue, several songs and a film (Where's George?) produced by British & Dominion Films, staring the comedian Sydney Howard. The Lyons publicity department, employees and many members of the press and public, became obsessed with the catch phrase. In 1935 there were over 2 million George's registered in the UK.

In 1934, the London Evening Star newspaper reported on the sing-along which preceded the Service of Remembrance at the Albert Hall, London, in the following terms: 'The huge concourse of ex-servicemen had been roaring famous wartime songs, and the massed bands of the Guards were about to strike up again when a wag in the gallery noticed that the conductor was missing. 'Where's George?' he yelled, and the enormous audience howled with delight, none more vociferously than the Prince [of Wales]'.

George's popularity was unique - yet he had no distinguishing feature other than the fact that he was always missing.


 © Peter Bird 2002