Commitment to his invention has kept him free from boredom for 50 years…

Keen-3-275wJust a lad myself, bright young designer dressed in what I thought was a snappy light beige suit, I drove in my MGB GT to Hayes to meet a man who had invented a lighter refill system that was on the verge, literally, of taking over the lighter refill world. And before you say ‘limited market’ or other silly comments like that, it is worth bearing in mind that this was the mid-sixties, and everyone in the world smoked – and couldn’t wait to get their hands on these new-fangled gas lighter things.

His invention was the development of a gas aerosol, with six adaptors stored in the patent can cap, that could literally fill every lighter in the world.

We got on well immediately. I had a hand in redesigning the original can and its cap – and have spent my life producing imaginative and fun ways to promote this world beating product ever since. He was a man of many parts, and these parts included a near complete understanding of aerosol technology and, more than that, a total understanding of the world marketing scene.

Result? The product has now been selling in huge quantities all over the world for fifty years, it is recognised as the undisputed leader in its field, and still sports a can design which is mine. On top of that, I once suggested a crenulated cap to hold the precision made adaptors, which is now thought of as the trademark of this billion selling product.

He sells his lighter refill in virtually every country in the world, has beaten off any competition, and it is recognised as the benchmark for impurity free butane. Pure enough to power any butane powered gadget you can think of.

Wow! A wonderful business, a wonderful life, based on a simple idea at a garden party fifty years ago.

Now in his mid-nineties, with sight and hearing problems, he dresses sharply, attacks every new day with great vigour – making sure his beloved product, Newport, is bang up to date, and ready for every new marketing challenge.

I always tell him he should write a book – to inspire all those people who have great ideas, and then decide to forget it at the first hurdle.

He is, as they say, an inspiration to us all.