Reg Newcombe was not well enough to attend the 40th Derby City Charter Beer Festival in July and sadly he died later that month. He was one of the key people who established the festival as a premier event, and had never missed one before. Reg set the style of the festival and an unrivalled standard for the quality of its presentation over its first 30 years, the 40th festival poster and programme cover featured many of Reg’s designs for beer glasses, logos and T-shirts down the years. In pride of place, is Reg’s Derby Ram, the symbol of Derby branch for over 40 years.

Reg was an extremely gifted artist and graphic designer. His superb line-drawings of Derby pubs graced the early Derby and Derbyshire beer guides and a specially-commissioned set of beer mats. He designed labels (one of which received a national award) for two bottled beers commissioned by Derby branch to celebrate anniversaries.  It is hoped that there will be an exhibition of his work in the Derby Museum and Art Gallery later this year with his drawings of pubs and other subjects.

He was also an excellent writer and produced many of the festival programmes, the first two Derby Beer Guides and the two editions of Derbyshire Ale.  These are genuinely a good read with succinct and apt descriptions, interesting snippets of historical information, and apposite quotations, that lift them well above the great majority of such guides.

Reg was a great campaigner, one of the handful of people who were largely responsible for getting the fledgling Derby Branch off the ground, developing it to become one of the most successful in the country.  An early branch chair, and for many years he was the branch public relations officer.  But Reg had no place for, as he put it, the “mealy-mouthed”, or those who are “lukewarm, and blew neither hot nor cold”. He took on the brewing establishment, most of which back then wanted to eliminate real ale. It did not matter who they were, Reg would treat them to some “plain-speaking”.  But he was invariably polite, and made his points in such a way, that most remained on friendly terms.

He was a drinker, and loved beer and pubs. He revelled in the “hubbub of conversation” in a bar. A great conversationalist, always interesting and witty he would often to sprinkle in a line or two from a poem or a quotation from Shakespeare.

Reg had some deeply held and inflexible views, but there would be a twinkle in his eye, and he was never nasty. He was amusing, erudite and eloquent and it was always a pleasure to be in his company. His influence was such that he was seen in later years as the Father of the Branch. Many of us will feel that it was a privilege to have known him, and will miss him dearly.

(by Tim Williams and John Arguile)

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