FUEL was in Mark Nolan's blood long before he decided to found his own fuel empire three decades ago.

The 58-year-old recalls a time when his parents would help provide fuel for Bicester with their own petrol pumps set up outside the nearby Launton Green Farm in the late 1960s.

This also featured an old RAF fire pump with the old tanker picking up petrol to supply small garages in the area.

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But it was when oil heating took off in the late 1960s and 1970s that the Nolan family really delved into the industry as distributors.

Now, decades later and following closely in the footsteps of his father Bert Henry Nolan, Mr Nolan junior is celebrating 30 years of his own Bicester-based business Nolan Oils which supplies numerous homes, farms and industries across the county.

The father-of-three said: “It has gone so quickly, I can’t believe it has been 30 years and three generations including my father, myself and my son who have delivered to our customers.”

Reflecting on the milestone, Mr Nolan put his success down to keeping that close connection with the community: to this day he still delivers to many who were served by his father.

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He said: “It was an easy progression to make [starting a new business] having been local to the area for so many years, and working on my dad’s farm with the oil customers."

Joining his father’s flourishing interest in the oil industry, Mr Nolan junior officially joined the cohort when he was 21.

He joined his father’s firm Markim Fuels as ‘soon as he was old enough’ to train as a tanker driver, before going on to become a director in the early 1980s.

But when his father sold the business, following oil retailer Ultramar’s sale to Kuwait Petroleum, Mr Nolan decided he wanted to set up his own business.

This started with all operations coming from his father’s front room, with just one oil tanker powering the business from Souldern.

He said: “Offering gas oil, kero and diesel, we’d outgrown our oil storage within the first month.

“We were operating out of Bicester but really needed a proper oil depot.

“A haulier friend said he was coming out of his business in Middleton Stoney, and said we could take on the land.”

Nolan Oils made its first fuel delivery in December 1988.

It now operates from the site in Middleton Stoney, as well as another base in Chipping Sodbury, distributing more than 20 million litres of fuel each year.

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Mr Nolan said he is often asked how he managed to set up the new business and about how difficult it must have been.

He said: “My family has been hands-on [in the industry] for years, so it was a piece of cake when I started.

"We had a mailshot to every village and once people knew it was us we didn’t need to do much more marketing – people came to us.

“The business boomed in the first month, which was very exciting. When I left to start my own firm I didn’t know if I would be sweeping roads in six months time: I was very lucky.”

Nolan Oils mostly provides oil for homes around the county, 30 miles from Bicester, as well as other farms and businesses.

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Mr Nolan, who still often heads out in the lorry to deliver himself, said: “It is still a small family business and service counts for everything.

"Nobody likes to have a cold house and if we can get the lorry down to help we will.

"We do a lot of nursing homes in Bicester, restaurants and hotels, where it is important they have oil. So if I have to jump in the lorry myself to help I will, that’s why many customers stick with us."

He added: “We have customers who have been with our family for 50 years. I still get a kick out of delivering to customers, especially those I have dealt with all these years.

“It’s the conversations you have, and seeing people who you haven’t seen for years. I still love meeting customers.

“It’s so easy to help people – you don’t have to be the cheapest, you should never be the dearest – but you should always offer the best service.”

Mr Nolan said he has no plans to retire from the business just yet.