Roy Bailey – A CAMRA paragon
As CAMRA celebrated it’s 50th anniversary (2021) it recognised our local CAMRA stalwart, Roy Bailey, with a Golden Award.
This is one of only two ‘People’ awards in the Central Southern CAMRA region of eleven branches. The other goes to Paul Hexter, the owner and landlord of the Royal Oak, Wantage (White Horse branch).
Roy has played a huge role in putting CAMRA at the centre of campaigning for Real Ale and pubs both locally and nationally over the last five decades. He got involved in the ‘old’ Newbury Branch of CAMRA soon after it formed in June 1974. He had suffered a violent upset stomach after drinking a few pints of very gassy beer served by top pressure dispense on a stag do; whereas Ushers FPA on gravity from casks on stillage was ‘nectar’ to Roy. This convinced him that ‘Real Ale’ was the answer for genuine beer lovers.
Roy had a great admiration for (the late) Dr David Arnold from Chieveley, the Branch’s second Chairman, and joined the Branch after being greatly impressed by the CAMRA Beer Exhibition tent at the Newbury Agricultural Show held at Siege Cross, Thatcham in September 1974. The beer tent was a remarkable success causing the ‘official’ caterers to close their bar by lunchtime in spite of CAMRA’s agreement to keep beer prices in line at 20 pence per pint!
CAMRA’s beer tents successfully appeared at many local outdoor events over the following decade with Roy at the centre of the organization. He then joined the local CAMRA committee in February 1975, becoming Vice-Chairman and Press & Publicity Officer at the 1976 AGM. By 1978 Roy had been elected Chairman with the late, but lovingly remembered, Jennie Bray as Vice-Chair. Newbury’s CAMRA Branch gained national recognition for success under Roy’s leadership. The wide range of events included CAMRA’s cricket team who played for a number of seasons at Chieveley with particularly enjoyable fixtures (home and away) against Eldridge Pope – the popular Dorset brewery of that time.
A Festival of ‘rural sports’ was held at Chieveley with ‘dwile flonking’ and ‘formation goat nadgering’ top attractions, inspired by Roy’s terrific imagination. Even the National Executive of CAMRA decided to hold one of its weekend meetings in Newbury enjoying the local hospitality in a number of pubs still open today. This also included a folk music performance by local CAMRA members.
In 1977 the Queen’s Silver Jubilee was celebrated with a Folk and Ale Jamboree held in the (long gone) Plaza hall, off Newbury’s Market Place, organised by Roy. It was considered at the time to be the biggest and most successful one day ’Beerex‘ organized by a CAMRA Branch with 27 breweries and 45 different draught beers enjoyed by a range of visitors from Wales in the west to Ipswich in the east.
However, Roy had a career and a job to hold onto and the activities of the branch went into abeyance for most of the 1980’s. Nevertheless Roy from Great Shefford and Paul Frances from Hungerford would meet regularly to decide on the eleven local pubs to go into the next edition of CAMRA’s famous Good Beer Guide having visited all of them frequently during the year. The Branch revived as West Berkshire CAMRA in 1986 and has flourished ever since with Roy being the backbone and inspiration of the Branch until recent years.
The local branch’s well recognised newsletter was given the memorable name of Ullage by Roy when he took over as editor in November 1976. Publication was revived by Roy in April 1990 and has not looked back since. In recent years (except during the pandemic) volunteers distribute an expanded Ullage magazine to about 100 local pubs on a quarterly basis. It is also popular online, accessed via the West Berks CAMRA website.
During the 1980’s and 90’s Roy was also much involved with CAMRA nationally, serving for some time on its Publications Committee, monitoring and advising on What’s Brewing and other publications. He wrote regular articles for What’s Brewing and its supplement Cider Press covering not only breweries and cider makers but also home brewing. He won a Bronze Award as a member of the British Guild of Beer Writers and frequently wrote for other publications such as the Newbury Weekly News. On several occasions Roy was a judge at the Champion Beer of Britain Competition held annually at the Great British Beer Festival. He also judged at cider competitions across the country.
Roy regularly attended the annual CAMRA conferences, often speaking on cider and pub name issues. He had his own cider business – the Lambourn Valley Cider Company – from 1995 until he finally ceased production in 2015 with a cider appropriately named ‘Swansong’.
Roy campaigned vigorously against pub closures, notably The Swan, Inkpen and The Lion in West Street, Newbury. He also led resistance against ill-advised changes to pub names. In 1993 Whitbread’s office in Marlow proposed renaming some of its pubs as ‘The Pig in Hiding’! The Castle in Donnington was renamed but, as local Branch Chairman, Roy led a well publicised campaign to overturn this and eventually a local poll voted 743 votes against the change and only 3 in favour. The name change was reversed and his efforts gained national publicity.
Not being content with pursuing beer and pub interests, in 1988 Roy entered the famous BBC Mastermind competition answering mainly historical questions as his specialist subject. He reached the final held in Stirling, Scotland and came a very creditable fourth out of five finalists. Around this time, after spotting Roy in stationary traffic on Northbrook Street, I jumped out into the road, opened his passenger door and shouted at him ‘If you reach the Final of Mastermind I will rejoin CAMRA’. After Roy’s achievement, I honoured the pledge and have remained a CAMRA member ever since.
In 1994, through an approach to CAMRA by the BBC, Roy was invited to set questions on ’Beer and brewing in Great Britain since 1974’ as another Mastermind applicant’s specialist subject. The BBC had not realised that Roy had been a finalist six years earlier.
In June 1995, to commemorate the 21st anniversary of CAMRA in West Berkshire, Roy brewed a special Porter which proved popular.
Although Roy is now a well established octogenarian, his mind, wit, eloquence and bonhomie is as sharp as someone half his age. No one in the history of the local Branch has had a greater influence on promoting the best aspects of beer, cider and pubs. He has been the very backbone of CAMRA’s local and national achievements over the last fifty years, often accompanied by his ever supportive wife, Annabel. Roy played a significant part in making CAMRA an acronym that is today almost universally recognized.
No one deserves a CAMRA Golden Award more than ‘my old mate‘ Roy Bailey.
More photos and details of Roy Bailey’s contribution to CAMRA over the last fifty years can be found in Ullage magazine via the following links:
Cheers to Forty Years by Roy Bailey
A History of CAMRA in West Berkshire – Part 1 (page 7) Ullage May/June 2011
A History of CAMRA in West Berkshire – Part 2 (page 7) Ullage July/August 2011
The first photo in this post shows Roy Bailey receiving his CAMRA Golden Award from Andy Pinkard (West Berkshire CAMRA Chair) at the Catherine Wheel, Newbury on 23/2/2022.
This event is described on page 1 of the Spring 2022 (online only) issue of Ullage. However, as there was only limited space there to include excerpts from Roy’s speech it is appended in full below.
I am very flattered and greatly honoured by this award. Andy’s e-mail telling me about it came as a complete surprise. I am extremely grateful to my old friend Chris Marriage for the very flattering tribute he has written, but I fear he has given me more credit than I deserve, especially as far as the former Newbury branch is concerned.
I was just one of a team, and a very good team it was too. People like Dr David Arnold, James Lynch, Peter Watson, Jennie Bray, Paul Frances, Fred O’Donnell, Dave Wright, Chris Marriage, Jeremy Dickins, David Hickman and Mary Bradbury all worked to make the branch one of the most effective within CAMRA. Everything about our campaigning was thoroughly enjoyable. We were the best social club in the area.
And when the branch was reformed as West Berkshire there were other first-class campaigners who came forward, like Dan Allen, Jeff Evans, Steve and Sandra Lodge, Alick Natton and Liz Bell, Mike and Carmel Smith, Caroline Hickman, Steve and Nikki Robinson, and my wife Annabel.
You will note the number of female names I have mentioned. The branch was never just a bunch of bearded, beer-bellied males – we were inspired by our female colleagues. I would particularly like to mention and pay tribute to two who are sadly no longer with us – Jennie Bray and Caroline Hickman – wonderful ladies in every way who made unforgettable contributions. I raise my glass to their memory.
Others who are still around but were unable to attend are James Lynch, one of the original committee and later National Chairman; Paul Frances, long time branch treasurer; Peter Watson, another founder member, Steve and Sandra Lodge, who were involved in producing the revived Ullage and – together with Steve Robinson – the recordings of What’s Brewing for the blind. And Ian Dixon – A Geordie living in Newbury who was formerly Head Brewer at Shepherd Neame.
It might be a good idea for me to finish by introducing some of the original members and supporters who are here tonight, in case some of you are wondering who they are:
You all know Chris Marriage – Apparently my appearance on national television inspired him to rejoin CAMRA, but we differ as to the details.
Bob Whiting – Bob used to come into The Lion just before closing time having been out to such places at The Travellers Rest at Tutts Clump selling little pots of seafood.
David Hickman. One of the early members who added a gentlemanly tone to a bunch of reprobates.
Maureen Harley – Not actually a CAMRA member but she frequented The Lion and was a better bowler for the CAMRA Newbury cricket than most of the men!
Alick Natton & Liz Bell – Another pair from Shefford who were very active on the committee. When Alick took over from me as branch chairman, he said it was like Private Pike taking over command of the platoon from Captain Mainwaring! Stupid boy!
Mike and Carmel Smith – A great team from Hungerford who specialised in organising social events. Now in exile in Wokingham.
Rick Wyatt & Tim Wale – my two cider-making colleagues and friends.
And last but not least, my wife Annabel. As a reward for joining CAMRA and washing beer festival glasses, I permitted her to marry me!