Published on September 5, 2017 | by Alastair Gilmour


Toast to absent friends

This summer saw the passing of two significant figures from the North East pub and beer world. It’s no exaggeration to describe John Holland and John Sands as giants of the region, such was their influence and legacy

JOHN HOLLAND (pictured)
After a number of months of ill health, John Holland appeared to be bouncing back, once again attending Campaign For Real Ale (Camra) meetings and events, writes Martin Ellis. He had planned future trips and holidays, so the news of his passing in July was somewhat unexpected.

John was from Low Fell, Gateshead and regularly visited many Tyneside and North East real ale pubs. He had an incredible memory and an encyclopedic knowledge of the region’s pubs and breweries.

When John joined Camra it was almost impossible to drink real ale on Tyneside – to the extent that when celebrating a birthday with friends in the late 1970s, he had to resort to drinking glasses of Madeira in a wine bar. “Miserable” is how he described the situation.

John had been a stalwart of the Tyneside & Northumberland branch of Camra since the late 1970s. In the 1980s he was branch chairman before becoming regional director for the North East. From 1998 to 2007 he was on Camra’s national executive – essentially a company director, but after stepping down he continued chairing the clubs committee and was on several other national committees.

Camra and real ale were John’s life and most people thought he didn’t have other interests, so it came as a surprise to learn at his funeral that he was keen on ornithology and philately. His funeral was attended by a large contingent of local, regional and national Camra members.

John was superb company; he enjoyed lively conversation and banter and will be missed as a campaigner and friend.Cheers editor Alastair Gilmour adds: It was always a pleasure to bump into John Holland in the pub and at beer festivals. He was always great company and will be remembered not only for his passion and dedication to real ale which he helped in no small way to achieving mass consumption, but for his infectious laugh. As one Camra member puts it: “I hope someone somewhere has recorded it.”

Tributes have been paid to popular North East pub boss John Sands who passed away in August. He was a giant of the pub industry, having been a former managing director at Camerons Brewery in Hartlepool and chief executive and chairman of Pubmaster which operated more than 3,000 pubs nationwide.

During a long career, he was also managing director of Tollemache and Cobbold brewery in Ipswich and Brent Walker Inns, he was awarded North East Business Executive of the Year in 2002, and in 2006 co-founded Wear Inns, which owns pubs across the region, with his colleague, the late John Weir.

At Pubmaster, he headed the £1.3bn deal that triggered its takeover by Punch Taverns, though lost out on a £2.5bn bid to buy 1,400 pubs from Scottish & Newcastle.

His brother Peter, a former editor of The Northern Echo, said John was the ultimate people person. He said: “His huge success in business came from a deep-rooted understanding that it was people who made a difference, and he always put them first.”

“He taught me a lot about business and about life, and it is John I have to thank for taking me to my first Newcastle United game in 1964 and all the joy that that has entailed since. I will miss him terribly.”

Originally from Whitley Bay, John and his wife Susan had four children, Heather, Kevin, Kathryn and Jonathan, plus nine grandchildren and a great grandson.

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Alastair Gilmour

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