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Published on March 10, 2017 | by Alastair Gilmour


Celebrating the man from Peru

Regular readers will recall special correspondent Ian Brown’s report last October on Peru and its beers. As entertaining as ever, Ian also gave us an insight into how he became interested in foreign travel – and like many of us, it was at school through a good teacher who made a subject come alive.

Ian introduced us to geography teacher Fat Alec, aka Mr Wilson, from Blyth Grammar School. Although it wasn’t yesterday, Ian described him as if it were:

“He’d point to some obscure place and enthuse in great detail about it,” he wrote. “We were all convinced he had been there, such was his knowledge and no-one would dare challenge that fact. I remember the day he told us about Lake Titicaca in Peru, the highest lake in the world.”

From that day on, Ian Brown – former senior lecturer at Northumbria University (now retired) – ached to go to Peru. And now, one of Fat Alec’s sons, Sandy Wilson, has been in touch with him after seeing the article. He writes:

“Dear Ian,

“It was a delight to read of your sampling of beery delights in Peru and your touching and nostalgic introduction referencing both our parents was deeply appreciated by all my far-flung Wilson siblings.

“As you can imagine, we think of and celebrate both of them – long deceased – regularly, given that their six kids are so globally peripatetic and their 15 grandchildren even more so.

“My father always seemed to draw on perceived experience but in reality, I can share with you that upon returning to Newcastle Airport after a few weeks visiting me while at Yale in the early 1980s, and having taken in the northeastern seaboard from Washington DC to Boston with my younger sister, he reportedly wept when my mother greeted him and said simply: ‘I’ve
been to America…’

“This speaks volumes and touches me to this day to tell you. He loved and was steeped in geography, geology, anthropology and people and civilisation (oh, and beer too). His passion has infected all of his offspring.

“It is an insightful and truly helpful tool which informs my own work and I treasure it as a gift from my father which keeps on giving. Thanks for sharing your story – it’s truly moving to hear it.

“I am fortunate to live in San Francisco which is home to many fine craft beers as well as of Fritz Maytag who, as saviour of the Anchor Steam Brewing Company, is regarded as a leading light in the resurgence of craft brewing nationwide. Fritz has become a personal friend – in no small part because he embraces the craft and traditions as well as the ongoing ‘journeyman’ experiment surrounding fine beer and winemaking worldwide.

“This extends in his unique case to the tradition of building string instruments. My colleagues and I are proud and privileged to play on an extraordinary quartet of instruments that Fritz commissioned some 30 years ago to commemorate his late sister, a fine violinist who died prematurely.

“I often wonder how Fat Alec and Fritz would get along – famously I imagine…”

Thank you, Ian Brown, Sandy Wilson, Alec Wilson and Lake Titicaca for bringing such a beautiful story to the pages of Cheers North East.

About the Author

Alastair Gilmour

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