Philip Roberts - Obituary

Exeter and East Devon branch has lost its most passionate

real ale activist in Phil Roberts 62, who put up a brave fight

against cancer.

Apart from being the current branch chairman, he was its

secretary for many years, and chairman before that. He

was also instrumental in organising beer festivals: over 20

of our branch winter festivals, worked closely with SIBA in

promoting their events such as Tuckers Maltings, Devon

County Show and the Food and Drink festival, was

chairman of the South West Tasting Panel and involved

with the TAG group. He was an annual volunteer at GBBF

and the NWAF, judging, managing Corporate Hospitality

and serving pints!


His hard work, dedication, cheerfulness and friendliness have always been a hallmark of his commitment to the real ale cause.

After a career in Environmental Health, he enjoyed an early retirement with more time to indulge his other (non-beer related!) interests, such as walking, car trials, F1 motor racing, and canals and narrowboats.

He leaves behind his wife Jane and two daughters, Helen and Elisabeth, and will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him.

Philip Roberts - Eulogy


I recently went to an ex work colleague’s funeral and he had written his own eulogy. I thought this was a very good idea, as you would hopefully know what they were saying about you after you had gone.

My early years were spent living on the outskirts of Chester at a place called Christleton. I was very fortunate living here, as I was able to enjoy two of my early passions in the area behind our garden, as both the main railway to Crewe and the Shropshire Union canal were very close. These passions were of course train spotting and fishing. I think it must have been the hours spent fishing beside the canal lock and observing all the boats coming through in the late 50’s and early 60’s that first stirred my interest in the canals: in those days there were still some working boats around.


I passed my 11 plus and went to a school in Ellesmere Port, which was quite a bus journey away. The problem with this was that none of my friends at this new school lived anywhere near me. However I had friends who lived in the same road so that was OK.

But in 1963/4 my father Gordon got another job based in Manchester and the whole family moved to Timperley so that he could be nearer to his place of work. You can imagine that as a 13/14 year old being taken away from your safe environment and friends was a traumatic experience. Starting at a new school Altrincham Boys Grammar was made easier by joining at the same time as Geoff Griffiths, and he and I have remained friends ever since. I made friends with a lot of people at Alty Grammar that I have been friends with for the rest of my life. It was whilst at school that I met the woman who was eventually to become my wife. Jane was going out with a classmate Ian and I always thought she seemed very nice but as she was spoken for nothing happened. One summer when her boyfriend was away we went out a few times but when he came back that was the end of our brief time together.

Although I made a lot of good friend whilst at school I didn’t enjoy my schooldays. I was not very good at regimented discipline. After leaving school I was successful in gaining employment as a Student Public Health Inspector with Altrincham Borough Council. They paid me the princely sum of £365 a year and sent me to Salford Technical College to learn the profession. I qualified in 1971 and started work at Altrincham as a District Public Health Inspector. Shortly after Local Government reorganisation came along and I was transferred to Trafford Borough Council dealing with Housing mainly in the Moss Side area. I moved to Vale Royal Council in 1975 and worked with some great people there many of whom we still keep in touch with.

Around 1973 Jane split up with Ian and we started seeing each other again, eventually getting married in 1975.

Our eldest daughter Helen was born in 1978 whilst we were living in Timperley not far from both sides of the family. Around 1979/80 we thought that I should try to get promotion to a more senior position at work and decided eventually that in order to succeed in this we would have to move. Several job interviews later I was appointed a Senior Environmental Health Officer at Mid Devon District Council and we moved to Devon and bought our house in Cullompton.

We initially thought we would stay in Devon for about 5 years before moving back up North but because of various promotions at Mid Devon we have stayed here ever since.

Elisabeth was born shortly before we moved into our house in Cullompton in February 1981 and is a Devon girl whilst Helen was actually born in Wythenshaw, which makes her a Manchester girl.

Both girls have done us proud. Helen is design manager with Equip UK who make the Rab brand of clothing and Elisabeth, now Dr Roberts, has a Post Doctoral research job in Aberdeen. I am so pleased that they are both settled in their employment.

One of the proudest moments of my life was walking with Helen on my arm to give her away in marriage to Graham, who is a great guy and I hope they are both as happy as Jane and I have been.

No eulogy about me would be complete without mentioning what Helen very perceptively once put on a birthday card for me. That was a drawing of me being undecided about what was my favourite thing - Jane, cars or beer. Despite what Jane may think she will always be my favourite, followed closely by cars and then beer.

I have always loved tinkering with old cars particularly those from the 60’s and 70’s when you could actually get in and around the engine to fix things. Modern cars are too technical now, needing diagnostic computers to sort out any problems.

CAMRA and Real Ale as most of you will know has been a passion of mine since the late 60’s. I blame my father who started making beer at home when we lived in Christleton and part of my reward for “helping him” was to have a little taste. I always drank real ale, even joining in a protest when the pub our crowd went in, the Griffin in Bowdon, took out all the real ale and installed the dreaded Watneys Red Barrel. We had a sit in at the pub and were barred from ever going back. So we went next door to the Stamford Arms and drank Boddingtons Mild and Bitter when it was made at the Strangeways Brewery in Manchester and tasted very nice.

I joined CAMRA in mid 78 after visiting the Chester beer festival. This visit opened my eyes to the great tasting and varied range of beers you could find even then and was at the very start of the resurgence of real ale through new micro breweries setting up. I helped with the organisation of the first Manchester beer festival in Houldsworth Hall Manchester the following year and then when we moved to Devon got involved with the Exeter & East Devon branch. Myself, two Richards and Ray Hodgins resurrected the Exeter beer festival in St Georges Hall as it was then and I have been involved with the branch in a committee position ever since earning the nickname by some as Mr CAMRA.

Finally I would like to pay tribute to my wonderful wife, who I love very much, who has been a real rock during my illness and subsequent treatments. I couldn’t have done it without her.

I will miss you all.