A toast to Vegemite

Noosaville-based Jamie Callister has traced the amazing story of his grandfather Cyril Percy Callister in The Man Who Invented Vegemite.
Noosaville-based Jamie Callister has traced the amazing story of his grandfather Cyril Percy Callister in The Man Who Invented Vegemite.

WE MAY all adore our Vegemite but how many of us know how this acquired taste came to fixate a nation, and of its modern-day Noosa flavour?

Noosaville-based Jamie Callister, whose wife Libby is also well known for her media and communications work, sets out to learn more about the grandfather he never met.

After seven years of exhaustive research he discovered extraordinary things can happen to ordinary people.

Jamie is toasting - with liberal lashings of Vegemite - the release of The Man Who Invented Vegemite by Murdoch Books about his granddad Cyril Percy Callister.

He has detailed the intriguing and previously unknown story of how his grandfather invented the spread that has produced generation after generation of happy little Vegemites - including his own three kids.

"He was the grandfather I never knew but I now feel like I know him incredibly well and more importantly I consider him to be one of our great Australians ... a man I truly admire," Jamie said.

"His life is a reflection of everything that embodies the Australian spirit - integrity and determination in the face of adversity and a quiet achiever who never sought public accolades."

Jamie discovered a collection of more than 50 letters and a flight logbook from the Second World War that had been collected by his grandfather and stored in a trunk, which led him on a quest to uncover the story.

Jamie said the story paralleled some of the major events from the 20th century - two world wars, the depression and the polio epidemic - all of which shaped his grandfather's destiny.

Today more than 22 million jars of Vegemite are sold each year, but when the salty black paste was first produced in 1923 the public wasn't interested. It was more than 15 years before Vegemite started to become accepted by the nation.

"It was particularly unpopular and at one time they changed the name to Parwill," Jamie said.

"For years more jars were coming back to the factory than were going out. The public just couldn't stomach it.

"My grandfather thought he could even be looking for a new job, things were that bad."

Jamie said his grandfather's dedication and commitment to the nutritional value of his product, in particular vitamin B, became his life's work until his death in 1949.

Jamie said his grandfather's story was a remarkable one.

"Vegemite already has a clear place in Australian households, however I hope now when Australians are putting Vegemite on their toast they will know its story, its place in history and who invented it," he said.

"It's no longer just my story, it's now everyone's story."


Book raises funds for cottage

A BOOK signing of The Man Who Invented Vegemite will be held at the Noosa Heads Surf Lifesaving Club on Tuesday, October 30, from 7-9am to raise funds for Sunshine Coast Community Hospice palliative care facility Katie Rose Cottage.

Tickets are $30 (including breakfast) and are available from Written Dimensions Bookshop, Noosa Junction, Noosa Heads Surf Lifesaving Club, Gibsons and Katie Rose. Phone Rachel at Written Dimensions Bookshop on 5447 4433.

Topics:  book fundraiser noosa vegemite

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