Pioneer made Belper firm a world beater

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A pioneer who was instrumental in helping Belper’s Silkolene brand to establish itself across the world has died at the age of 78.

As marketing manager at the iconic lubricant manufacturer, Eric Brookes helped bring about technical advances and negotiated highly successful

sponsorship deals with brands such as Honda, Suzuki and Kawasaki.

The former pupil of Herbert Strutt School , who died in hospital following an illness, was laid to rest after a service at St Peter’s Church, Belper, on Friday, January 25.

Throughout his working life, Mr Brookes remained a lifelong friend of former classmate Alan Bates, the now well-known film and stage actor.

National Service saw Second Lieutenant Brookes posted to Northern Ireland,before working on gear design for Rolls-Royce.

His work at Royce’s gave him an insight into the specialised lubrication requirements of aero engines. In the late seventies, Eric and his fellow ex-Royce’s laboratories employee John Rowland used their knowledge of aerospace lubricant properties to design the Silkolene range of high performance powersport products.

Their “revolutionary” approach to formulating products used unique raw materials which they knew, among other things, were capable of keeping planes flying safely – in fact, a dedicated plant at Belper existed which recycled specialised fluids used in Concorde.

Eric and John worked with racing teams and manufacturers to develop engine oils, suspension fluids, chain lubricants, non-toxic coolants; a complete range of motorcycle products.

Having firmly established the brand in the UK, Eric travelled the world appointing Silkolene distributors - firstly in France and then in the USA. Unfortunately he experienced ill health during his travels, having a heart attack in 
Bangkok, which resulted in a triple by-pass operation and being flown home accompanied by his own personal nurse.

In 1989, the Derby Road company was purchased by FUCHS Lubricants, and Eric continued to further develop new markets. Fuchs closed the site in 2000.

Following Eric’s death, many of his colleagues said they 
remembered him with “deep affection – his wit, knowledge and total dedication to the brand” which continued 
until well after he retired in 2002.

He maintained contact with his many overseas customers and colleagues.

On learning of death, many of his distributors commented that he “possessed the rare qualities of combining intellect with a pioneering spirit”.

Eric is survived by his wife Jean, daughters Vivienne, Becky and Ruth and son John.

He worked imaginatively, to promote the brand at race

venues through track signage, images on riders clothing, finding up and coming

young riders in motorcross, sidecar and other events, and the brand quickly became

accepted as number 1 in the UK two wheel market based on technical excellence

and the extensive range.

Much of the success of Silkolene was due to Eric’s strict adherence to a marketing

strategy that was based on selling the range only through bone fide motorcycle

distributors. Most of those distributors which were appointed in the early 1980s

remain loyal to the brand to this day.

Having firmly established the brand in the UK, Brookes travelled the world appointing

Silkolene distributors - firstly in France and then in the USA. Unfortunately he

experienced ill health during his travels, having a heart attack in Bangkok which

resulted in a triple by-pass operation and being flown home accompanied by his

own personal nurse. A gentlemanly yet easygoing approach reminiscent of David

Niven never failed to break the ice with customers, even those in the more remote

corners of the world. Enjoying the challenge, Brookes dedicated his working life to

the development of Silkolene into a global brand.

Eric Brookes, previous Marketing Manager responsible for the Silkolene brand of

FUCHS Lubricants died aged 78 on 5th January 2013. Educated at Strutt’s School,

he was a lifelong friend of classmate Alan Bates, later the well-known film and stage

actor. National Service saw Second Lieutenant Brookes posted to Northern Ireland,

where he experienced total darkness in his billet - the IRA had blown up the airfield

sub-station. Those were the days when the UK media did not report such goings-on,

so his bewilderment was total.

Prior to joining Dalton & Company in 1971 as a Technical Area Sales Manager, Eric

worked on gear design for Rolls Royce in Derby. His work with Rolls Royce gave

him an insight into the specialised lubrication requirements of aero engines. In the

late seventies, Eric and his fellow ex-RR Laboratories employee John Rowland

used their knowledge of aerospace lubricant properties to design the Silkolene

range of high performance powersport products. Their revolutionary approach to

formulating products specific to the application used unique raw materials which they

knew, amongst other things, were capable of keeping planes flying safely – in fact, a

dedicated plant at Belper existed which recycled specialised fluids used in Concorde.

Thanks to Eric’s efforts Silkolene most definitely did move up in the world. Technical

advances were combined with a fresh marketing approach to motorcycle lubrication

- much in advance of the usual ‘Give them standard car oils with pictures of bikes

on the labels’. Brookes and Rowland worked with race teams and manufacturers

to develop firstly two-stroke and then 4-stroke engine oils, suspension fluids, chain

lubricants, non-toxic coolants; a complete range of motorcycle products which were

readily accepted by OEMs due to their technical excellence for high performance,

engine cleanliness and long term reliability.

As Marketing Manager for the Silkolene brand, Eric negotiated highly successful

sponsorship deals in the two wheel market with brands such as Honda, Suzuki and

Kawasaki to name but a few. He worked imaginatively, to promote the brand at race

venues through track signage, images on riders clothing, finding up and coming

young riders in motorcross, sidecar and other events, and the brand quickly became

accepted as number 1 in the UK two wheel market based on technical excellence

and the extensive range.

Much of the success of Silkolene was due to Eric’s strict adherence to a marketing

strategy that was based on selling the range only through bone fide motorcycle

distributors. Most of those distributors which were appointed in the early 1980s

remain loyal to the brand to this day.

Having firmly established the brand in the UK, Brookes travelled the world appointing

Silkolene distributors - firstly in France and then in the USA. Unfortunately he

experienced ill health during his travels, having a heart attack in Bangkok which

resulted in a triple by-pass operation and being flown home accompanied by his

own personal nurse. A gentlemanly yet easygoing approach reminiscent of David

Niven never failed to break the ice with customers, even those in the more remote

corners of the world. Enjoying the challenge, Brookes dedicated his working life to

the development of Silkolene into a global brand.

In 1989 the company was purchased by FUCHS Lubricants, a specialised lubricants

manufacturer based in Mannheim, Germany. Such was the success of Silkolene,

FUCHS adopted it as the two wheel brand for the group. Brookes continued to

further develop new markets via subsidiaries of FUCHS alongside the independent

distributors he had appointed throughout the world.

Many of his colleagues remember with deep affection his wit, knowledge and total

dedication to the brand which continued until well after he retired in 2002. He

maintained contact with his many overseas customers and colleagues despite

restrictions to long haul flights due to ongoing health problems. On learning of

Eric Brookes’ death, many of his previous distributors have commented that he

possessed the rare qualities of combining intellect with a pioneering spirit.

Following his retirement, Eric’s new hobby involved four legged friends, firstly Tess

who was Jean’s dog and then Daisy May, a Golden Retriever who ensured that

Eric took regular exercise. He also took great enjoyment from tending the large

garden at their home, Grovewood in Staffordshire. Eric completed the transition

from two wheels to four legs with great success and the same level of passion and

enthusiasm as he had shown for Silkolene.

Despite moving to Staffordshire, Eric maintained a lifelong love of his birthplace

Belper which was also the original home of the Silkolene brand.

His funeral will take place at St Peter’s Church Belper on 25th January at 12.15pm.

Eric Brookes is survived by his wife Jean, daughters Vivienne, Becky and Ruth and

son John.