Northern Ireland

A lot of bottle: 40 years of being the lemonade man

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionIt is the end of the road for Nelson Hunter

Being the lemonade man takes a lot of bottle.

In fact, over the course of 42 years, Nelson Hunter has delivered almost four million bottles of fizzy stuff to customers across County Antrim.

For many, the lemonade man was an iconic part of growing up in Northern Ireland.

There are childhood memories of eagerly watching out of the front window to see the van pull up with the latest order of brightly-coloured soft drinks.

Nelson first started doing the job in 1975, but is now stepping down after more than four decades.

He said soft drinks had been a key part of his life, long before he took up his job at the age of 23.

"My mother used to get Maine soft drinks delivered to the house - two bottles every week.

"When I was very small, I remember seeing the Maine man.

"A good few years later, I then went for an interview at Maine, got the job, and it wasn't too long before I was soon known all around the town as the Maine man," said Nelson.

Image copyright Maine Soft Drinks
Image caption Many people were used to seeing the lemonade man throughout their childhood

Nelson said although many of the products had changed over the years, many of his customers have remained the same.

"Maybe it's because I've been around for so long, but, in some cases, I'm now delivering to the third generation of some families.

"I've many memories of young children standing at doors with their mothers, and now I'm bringing bottles to their doors and they're now standing with their children."

'Thirst-ade'

Nelson said he could deliver up to 480 bottles a day, five days a week.

Not surprisingly, he has a strong grasp of the local geography and believes the old methods are sometimes the best for finding new addresses.

"It can sometimes be tricky delivering to a new house, especially if you're not too sure where exactly it is, but I don't use a sat nav or anything.

"It might just take me a little longer than usual - but when I find it once, I'll always find it again."

Image copyright Maine Soft Drinks
Image caption Soft drinks production has evolved a lot over the decades

Over the years, Nelson said his customers had become very close friends and are "just like one big extended family".

"When I got engaged and was getting married all the customers got together and planned a big celebration where they all came out and egged me.

"It was really great fun and we still laugh about it," he said.

"They also used to buy me gifts when my children were born and I'm so thankful to them all for their support over the years.

"The job wouldn't really be the same without them and over the last few days I've had so many well wishers. It means so much - I'm definitely going to miss the people the most."

Image copyright Maine Soft Drinks
Image caption Nelson Hunter has been a lemonade man for over four decades, delivering soft drinks in rain, hail or sunshine

Customers on Nelson's round can rest easy in the knowledge that they will still be able to get their flavoured favourites delivered to their front door.

Nelson is training an apprentice who will take up the route after he leaves.

Any advice?

"You've got to have patience, because you don't always know how long you'll be out on a job," he said.

"And you also need to be able to build trust with your customers, because they're the most important part of the job."