Ipswich remembers Tolly troubleshooter

NEWS of the death of Sir John Harvey-Jones has been greeted with sadness today by everyone who met him during his visits to the Tolly Cobbold brewery in Ipswich.

NEWS of the death of Sir John Harvey-Jones has been greeted with sadness today by everyone who met him during his visits to the Tolly Cobbold brewery in Ipswich.

Sir John paid two visits to Cliff Quay as part of his Troubleshooter BBC series in the 1990s, advising the management buy-out team who took over the brewery.

And he paid another visit to the brewery in 1993 when a beer was named after him - a move which gave him a great deal of personal pleasure.

Former Tolly managing director Bob Wales remembers Sir John with great affection.


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He said: “He really enjoyed coming here, he said we were his favourite brewery and that meant a great deal to us.

“Sir John showed that being a businessman wasn't all about making money and looking to cut costs. He showed you could have fun and run a business at the same time.

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“He was always there giving advice to us during his visits - not only when the cameras were turning. He was are real support and a delightful visitor.”

The brewery retained its links with Sir John by sending him a case of its “year beer” every year. “I know that was something he really appreciated,” said Mr Wales.

Sir John died yesterday, aged 83, after being ill for some time. “I knew he had not been very well, but this has come as something of a shock to us,” Mr Wales added.

Ipswich council chief executive James Hehir also met Sir John during his visits to the town.

He said: “He was a great enthusiast, and one of the things he was enthusiastic about was beer, so visiting Tolly Cobbold was a real labour of love.

“I'll never forget his face when the pumps were turned around and Tollyshooter ale was unveiled. People think businessmen are hard-hearted - but that made him very emotional.

“The Troubleshooter programme introduced a lot of people to world of business and he was the ideal person to present such a show.”

When Sir John took over in 1982, ICI was ailing and making huge losses, but in less than five years he turned it into a successful business, and in 1984 it became the first British company to post more than £1 billion in full-year pre-tax profits.

Born in London on April 16 1924, Sir John grew up in India, where his father was guardian and tutor to a young maharajah.

He went on to the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth and in 1940 joined the Royal Navy.

After the war, the Navy sent Sir John to Cambridge University to learn German and Russian and he then worked in Naval Intelligence as a German and Russian interpreter, eventually leaving the service in 1956 with the rank of lieutenant-colonel, to spend more time with his daughter, who had polio.

He joined ICI as a junior manager on Teesside, and rose through the ranks to join the board in 1973 and eventually become chairman in 1982.

Sir John was knighted in 1985, and served as chancellor of Bradford University from 1986-91 and chairman of The Economist magazine from 1989-94.

Sir John married Mary Bignell in 1947 and they had one daughter, Gabrielle.

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