Tuesday, September 19, 2006
RIP John Young CBE - 1921 -2006
Anyone who grew up in South London during the past 150 years will have been aware of the Youngs pub. It's an institution. If you lived in Wandsworth and it's environs you'll also be aware of the Youngs horse and cart that took beer from the Ram brewery in Wandsworth Town Centre to the local pubs.
I've never been a huge fan of bitter, but Youngs has always been different. It was something I grew up with and it's the first pint my dad ever bought for me in a pub (pint of mixed - half ordinary, half special), so it has a special place in my heart.
John Young upheld the Young family tradition by dogmatically standing by bitter in the face of the onslaught from lager brewing. Long before CAMRA became the force it is now he was standing firm for bitter and he won, he maintained the brewery in Wandsworth and grew the business.
My personal contact with John Young was via the County Arms on Trinity Road. The pub is cavernous and up until 2003 it had this amazing smokey, junk shop feel to it, hung with huge chandeliers throughout and a cubby hole around every corner, it had a real feeling of South London about it. It was a favourite hang out of the guards at Wandsworth Prison which stands just 200 yards away and come friday night you could be assured of a nasty brawl.
However, give the areas demographic these days the gastro makeover was inevitable. The brewery poured £600,000 in to the refit and it is now a much more sanitised place. Nice, but not nowhere near the character.
Anyway it would appear that the brewer may have invsted the money for their own purposes, you would regularly see them come in for board lunches, chaired by John Young. He cut a frail figure, but would head the table and make the speech and on deliberately overhearing him was a very engaging orator.
Rather sadly the share price has risen following Mr Young's death, fuelled by rumours that the brewery is ripe for take over. His two sons who are the 57% majority shareholders, do not have a direct interest in the business, so it is likely they will be swallowed up by one of the big breweries. Youngs have already moved their brewing to Bedford following a merger with Charles Wells a couple of months ago. My hope is that Youngs pubs retain their character.
Times obituary here