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Memorial for Bobby Neame CBE DL

On 25 February, the Master and Clerk joined a huge crowd at Canterbury Cathedral to celebrate the life of Bobby Neame, Past Master of the Brewers’ Company and stalwart of the brewing industry, who very sadly passed away on 15 November 2019.  Among the guests were 28 Liverymen of the Brewers’ Company: a testament to the esteem in which Bobby was held by his colleagues in the industry.

During the service, Bobby’s son Jonathan Neame, who will follow in his father’s footsteps by becoming Master of the Brewers’ Company in 2022, read a moving eulogy which highlighted Bobby’s vast array of achievements.  Jonathan’s precis of his father’s career gives a marvellous insight into the great man that he was:

“He needed to be a natural leader, as he was expected to join the brewery, straight from the army. University was not an option. He had no formal business training.  He had a natural intuition, was a good strategic thinker and always a clear vision. His favourite phrases were “you have got to speculate to accumulate”,  “play it long” and “if in doubt do nowt”. Not out of the Insead lexicon, but wise none the less.

He was entrepreneurial and innovative; always thinking outside the box.  He believed small brewers needed to brew lager to survive and loved telling a story of haggling with a rag and bone man, over a lunch of greasy chops on a table cloth of old newspapers, behind the Tottenham Hotspur ground, to buy some dilapidated brewing equipment. Pure Steptoe and Son.

He had a willingness to confront and tackle difficult issues and stand up for what he believed in. A forceful advocate for family businesses, and independent family brewers.  The then Chief Executive of the Brewers of Europe said one of the finest sights of his career was seeing my father park our shire horses and dray in Central Brussels and block traffic in protest against Booze Cruises. He said he stood there, reins in hand, like Ben Hur.

When he started there were 540 breweries in the UK, and of that generation perhaps 30 survive. Few would have put money on Shepherd Neame being one of them. But, against all the odds, it is still here – a consequence ultimately of his passion and determination.  Of all his achievements, he was proudest of this fact.”

Bobby was a valued Liveryman of the Brewers’ Company and continued to attend events at Brewers’ Hall, to meet friends, drink beer and discuss the industry until the end.  He will be missed.