FRANK (BILL) BAILLIE
Frank Baillie was the author of the seminal work, the ‘Beer Drinker’s Companion’ (published in 1973), and, as well as becoming a CAMAL member soon after its inception, had been a great influence on the fledgling Campaign for the Revitalisation of Ale (later Real Ale). He passed away in the early part of 2014 at the age of 92 in Christchurch, Dorset, and, at his funeral on 17TH February 2014, the address was given jointly by Graham Lees and Michael Hardman, two of CAMRA’s founder members, such was the esteem in which he was regarded.
Alexander Francis Haselar Baillie was born on the 10TH November 1921 at Blackheath, in south London, but his family gave him another name for good measure. They preferred to call him Bill after the musical-hall song ‘Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home?’ rather than after the present-day musical comic of a similar name!! But he usually called himself Frank, presumably because he considered Alexander to be not so Great and Haselar would have wasted too much of his time when people asked him how to spell it – he already had a surname that needed to be spelled out because of its unusual spelling – so ‘Frank’ was how he was always known within beer circles. In fact, it was only in death that he was discovered to be known as ‘Bill’ by the handful of cousins he left behind in the UK and Spain.
His mother was Norwegian and, perhaps, the source of the Haselar name, though some folk said the word arrived with the Norman Conquest and meant someone who lived near or worked in a hazel grove. Appropriately enough, as Frank became a naturalist following graduation with a BSc in Agriculture from Bangor University, in 1949. Work for a Swiss agricultural company enabled him to travel the world and – unbeknownst to many outside his immediate family circle – he had married while in New Zealand but, sadly, his wife Carol died of leukæmia when still young.
Frank was already working on his encyclopædic book documenting all Britain’s breweries and beers even before CAMRA had been formed in 1971. It was the first of its kind, aimed directly at the consumer, and was researched in the face of an industry then hostile to outside interest in its business activities. Nonetheless, he resolutely stuck to his aim of telling the then truth about British beer.
When CAMRA stumbled onto Frank, it was manna from heaven, he being a goldmine of knowledge, information and advice as well as great fun to know. Reprinted again in 1974, also the year that the first ‘Good Beer Guide’ appeared, the ‘Beer Drinker’s Companion’ broke new ground as an original book by a beer drinker aimed at the beer-drinking public. It contained the first publicly available list of all the breweries in the land, many of which were comparatively obscure and could be considered a precursor to CAMRA’s ‘GBG’.
He was quickly persuaded to join CAMRA’s National Executive, where his enthusiasm and sharp sense of humour were much valued, and his contribution to CAMRA’s success in the early days of consumerism was of immense benefit to future generations of beer lovers. But it was not only traditional draught beer or real ale, as we now know it, that became one of Frank’s passions but foreign beers as well. His work allowed him to roam the world sampling indigenous ales in whichever country he found himself.
At one of the early Alexandra Palace Great British Beer festivals, he was heard to remark that ‘I’ve just been to a silly brewery in Belgium’; even the CAMRA organisers took a while to realise that there was actually a brewery called Silly over there!! The late Michael Jackson, known as the ‘Beer Hunter’ and probably the most famous beer writer internationally, acknowledged Frank as ‘the pioneering beer hunter”.
His ‘drinking trousers’ which he invariably wore whenever on an expedition had had more pockets than a billiard table: spaces for guides and maps; money; train tickets and timetables; a note book; passport; and various bits and pieces in case of hunger, thirst, snakes or punctures. They were ex-Army fatigues of a washed-out olive green but, unfortunately, have not been saved for posterity. He was recalled as the only man known to roll up his shirts and stuff them into his socks while on his travels!!
The ‘drinking trousers’ featured during his relentless search in seeking out elusive breweries, essential during his determined attempt to visit all 800 breweries in Bavaria which led to the ‘Great Bavarian Beer and Bike Expedition’, a series of summer tours that drew other enthusiasts from Britain and put the town of Bamberg, and its unique smoked Rauchbier, on the international beer map.
Whilst there, on one tour, whilst lesser mortals fell into a wayside hostelry convinced a particular brewery would never be found, Frank persuaded one of the locals to drive him to the correct address and, as proof of his success, returned with a litre of freshly drawn Forschungsbrauerei beer!!
An imposing man, he was a lovable eccentric and self-effacing, surprised at how important his achievements were regarded. Tall and often dishevelled, he was also a very private individual despite regular appearances at the many ale festivals which the huge influence of his ground-breaking ‘Beer Drinker’s Companion’ promulgated, where he could often be seen getting agitated over news of another brewery takeover or closure before flexing his shoulders and sniffing before declaring, “we’ve got to do something about it, man!”. He left instructions to be laid to rest in a woodland burial ground near Wimborne in Dorset and that a firkin of one of his favourite ales, Hop Back’s GFB (or Golden Best as it’s now called), should be supped at his wake.
Ein prosit, Frank.
compiled from Articles in What’s Brewing and on the London CAMRA Branches website
Just after the first Ring of the New Year, we heard of the sad death of Ken Brewster, a founder member of CAMAL, and, latterly, our Chairman helping to organise trips abroad to seek out decent foreign beers. He was also a founder member of the Richmond & Hounslow CAMRA branch (then Richmond & Twickenham) in 1974 and its first vice-Chairman. He had, around this time, also become involved in the SPBW, the Society for the Preservation of Beers from the Wood, being an instigator of its erstwhile Pagoda branch. Often to be found in the Express Hotel at Kew Bridge in those days, he was invited to become a member of the Ring whilst there.
Ken, who was a bachelor, was found at home by a neighbour and concerned landlord of his latterday local in Hampshire on Sunday, 11TH January, when they were asked to investigate when he did not show up at the gathering of Ring 580 on the Saturday – an almost unheard of occurrence.
Within CAMRA, he progressed from vice-Chairman to Branch Chairman after a couple of years and remained in that post until 1978 when he stood down due to work commitments. In his ‘spare’ time, he worked on designing and supervising the installation of data switching systems around the world, largely in airports. Some time afterwards, he moved away to settle in Chineham, near Basingstoke, and very quickly became active in the local branch there, serving as their Treasurer for a long time. Although it is many years since he held office in the North Hampshire branch, and remained very much respected, he did act as Auditor in more recent times.
Ken was born near Pickering in North Yorkshire and went to Sheffield University. With a keen sense of humour and a strong sense of propriety, his life time loves were traditional jazz and proper beer; former members of the committee from his R&H days invariably recalled, almost every time his name was mentioned, his insistence that all branch activities should be carried out with “strict financial contro-o-ol”, the words delivered in his unmistakable soft Yorkshire accent. He never raised his voice – he didn’t need to.
Ken was a regular supporter of many SPBW events and an inveterate Ring attendee, despite having to travel to and from Basingstoke, and, in being a regular contributor in researching and compiling Ring tours, these were always meticulously produced in accordance with established Ring rules even, perhaps, where these proved to be too ambitious for today’s thinning pub stock (see below). He was helping to rewrite these rules when he died.
In the first few years after he moved, small groups of friends would regularly go to stay with him for weekends sampling the pubs and beers available in north Hants and south Berkshire. Renowned locally for these trips to very many pubs, there probably wasn’t a hostelry within 30 miles of Basingstoke or, through the Ring, within Greater London that Ken didn’t know. The fact that he was seriously diabetic did not stop him enjoying half a dozen pints on a Saturday night – often with a couple of generous scotches at home afterwards as a nightcap. All such events were planned with the fastidious care that you would expect from an engineer as good as Ken, including having a good meal beforehand, so it was tragically ironic that it was diabetes that got him in the end, having lapsed into a coma from which he never recovered, shortly after returning home from a trip back to Yorkshire to visit relatives over the New Year.
Forever the beer taster and, like his great friend and fellow CAMAL member Frank Baillie before him, he was always in pursuit of the never-to-be-found but always-hoped-for perfect pint. Searching out new microbreweries, whether at home or abroad, was a large part of his life so it was particularly appropriate that, at the reception in the Chineham Village Hall after his funeral service, beers from the newly-established Andwell brewery at Odiham were laid on for mourners.
Within CAMAL, he masterminded many jaunts to foreign parts, always armed with a long list of pubs that he had researched. On several occasions, his reports (or CAMAL Comments) appeared in the pages of CAMRA’s London Drinker magazine and more recent ones can be found on the Travel Pages of its website. Despite his affability, he kept himself very much to himself and even his meticulous beer scoring he tended to keep private. It was undoubtedly his intimate knowledge of electronics that enabled him to tap these into a handheld ‘blackberry’ with a zeal that put many younger ‘luddites’ to shame!
Somehow the world seems a smaller place without Ken now, knowing that he won’t be popping up at beer festivals, such as Battersea, with a cheery hello and giving encouragement to those working behind the bar. Kenneth was a close friend to many, a person of whom no-one ever had an unkind word to say about. We shall all miss his calm, gentle, personality and his, dry, mischievous, sense of humour.
His funeral in Chineham on 27TH January 2009 inevitably drew a large attendance and how fitting it was that his coffin both entered and left the church to the sound of jazz. What a shame he’s not around to help celebrate the Ring’s 600TH jaunt and its 50TH year celebrations currently underway.
compiled from Articles in London CAMRA & SPBW newsletters by Sue Hart, Andy Pirson of R&H CAMRA & John Rooth,
with contributions from John Buckley of North Hampshire CAMRA & Paul Dabrowski
KENGLO’S RING 573 REFRAIN
Oh! The Grand Old Duke of York,
he led ten men and two women.
He marched them to the top of Richmond Hill,
then he marched them down again.
And, when they were up, they were in a pub.
And, when they were down, they were in a pub.
But, when they were neither up nor down,
they missed two pubs in Richmond Town!
For those not in the know, the Ring (referred to in the obituaries above and, occasionally, elsewhere) is a regular drinking jaunt, usually somewhere in the metropolis, which takes place once a month on a Saturday. Membership is by invitation only and participants usually acquire an epithet other than their real name.