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McMahon’s Soft Drinks’ fizzy taste bubbles up from the past

It has been 30 years since the tinkling of the bottles ceased after the last production run of McMahon’s Soft Drinks.

The iconic brand has answered the prayers of Ipswich residents by going back into production for a limited edition of two of its most famous drinks to raise funds for Ipswich Hospice.

N-E-Thing and Sarsaparilla are two favourite flavours that still linger on the taste buds and in the memories of many locals.

No one is more surprised than Peter McMahon, son of founder of McMahon’s Soft Drinks Frank McMahon.

“I have been asked many times if we would ever go back into bottling but I thought I am out of that business and never would,” Mr McMahon said.

“When we sold a recipe to raise money for Ipswich Hospice, Brendan Cavanagh from Cooks Soft Drinks in Pittsworth near Toowoomba had read the story and called me to ask if I would consider making some again.

“I am on the board of Ipswich Hospice and we are always looking for ways to raise money.

“I put my head together with Kerryn Costello from Hospice and artist Andrew Spark to create the labels, boxes and caps.”

Mr McMahon enlisted of two of the original syrup makers from McMahon’s Soft Drinks, Zane and Sharon Sinnamon, who offered to volunteer their time.

They headed off to Cooks Soft Drinks to make the syrup from the original recipe using traditional techniques and overseeing the manufacturing.

The limited production produced 200 cartons of 24 x 300ml bottles, which are selling for $100 plus GST per carton with money raised going to the Ipswich Hospice.

Order your box of living history from the Ipswich Hospice shop here.

Print out the receipt and head to Peter McMahon’s Swim Factory to collect the order.

Limited edition artwork by Andrew Spark is also available for $66 per print by emailing Mr Spark here.

Andrew Spark artwork

About McMahon’s Soft Drinks

McMahon’s Fruit Drinks was started by Frank McMahon in 1934 in a small rented building in West Street, Ipswich.

With eight pounds in the bank and four pounds needed to connect electricity to the premises, Frank began his business with outdated machines and a large amount of hope.

Combining ingredients, Frank would then bottle the mixture using his first bottling machine which filled only one bottle at a time.

Then he would be off to sell his soft drinks, often leaving his wife, Mrs McMahon to look after the factory as well as her housework.

The price of a shilling would get you three large bottles of soft drink.

Interior of factory in West Street, the owner, Frank McMahon on left. The bottle washer machine was a Mauri Bros., 12 wide Tasman. The filler was a 16 head Progressive Syruper Filler and Crowner which filled 26oz, 11oz dumps and 7oz split bottles. Image: Picture Ipswich

As war broke out in 1939, Frank was fortunate enough to land an offer to supply soft drinks to the Army and later the US forces at Amberley which enabled him to purchase the factory premises that he had been renting.

Soon after, he bought the two adjoining houses and land next to the factory, the family moving into one of the houses. He then extended the business premises through the block from Darling Street to Martin Street.

In 1959 his sons joined the family company and the name changed to McMahons Aerated Waters.

By 1961-62 the business had grown in strides and housed a fleet of trucks delivering to a regular clientele.

McMahon’s Soft Drinks factory, Ipswich, during flooding in January 1974. Image: Picture Ipswich

In 1977 after the resulting flooding and damage of the Woodend premises in the 1974 floods, Frank’s two sons, Jim and Peter moved the soft drinks business to the newly established Wulkuraka industrial estate.

In its prime, the McMahon’s business became the second biggest home delivery operation for soft drinks in Queensland and were early pioneers in terms of recycling because of their returnable bottles process.

The Factory was sold to ‘Just Juice’, then ‘Pepsi Cola’ and then to ‘Schweppes’.

The original factory at 1 Martin Street, Woodend is now home to an indoor swim school, Peter McMahon’s Swim Factory.

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