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Tribute to Ray Borrett 22 April 1944 – 31 May 2017
One of Oxford CAMRA’s best-known characters, Ray Borrett, has died aged 73. He was known in CAMRA circles well beyond this area, being an enthusiastic volunteer at festivals including the Great British Beer Festival (GBBF) in London.
Ray, born in Suffolk but a resident of Bampton, was very well-known throughout West Oxfordshire where he delivered copies of the Oxford Drinker to pubs. He met his wife-to-be Lynne in 1994 on a ramble, one of his main leisure activities, and they married in 1997.
“He and two friends were carrying rucksacks full of bricks in preparation for walking the Pennine Way,” she recalls. “No youth hostels or B&Bs for them. They slept in sleeping bags in all weathers and washed in a stream. It took them exactly two weeks and they caught the train to Oxford on the Sunday, and went back to work the next day.”
At that time Ray worked as a medical laboratory scientific officer at the Churchill Hospital, Oxford, taking blood samples from haemophilia patients, and his name appears on several important medical reports. He was an enthusiastic Morris dancer, performing the Broom Dance outside their house in Bampton before they went on honeymoon.
Ray and Lynne’s camping holidays in the Yorkshire Dales provided an opportunity to sample many real ales, and he made her take a sip of every glass to give her opinion – not that he took any notice!
“We went to lots of beer festivals, but the highlight of his year was GBBF where he made many good friends,” she recalls. “He loved the upstairs drinking sessions when the bars had closed to the public. Two years ago, when he couldn’t go, his friend Ben sent him a photo of all the helpers, some in the most amazing get-ups, with a generous cheque and a lovely letter saying how much he was missed.
“Ray had an extraordinary collection of beer festival t-shirts. One I remember said, ‘I’ve had Betty Stoggs.’ It took me some time to realise that Betty Stoggs was a beer! I have so many memories of our life together as he was unique, a one-off, and a very funny man. RIP Ray.”
Long-standing Oxford CAMRA member John Mackie worked beside Ray at beer festivals including GBBF. John mentions that Ray also worked in country crafts including hedging, dry stone walling and thatching, and was a tour guide at Wychwood brewery in Witney.
“A story I recall was when Prince Charles visited the brewery because it brewed his Duchy beers,” says John. “Ray was performing with the Morris team and waggled his ‘bladder’(used by the Morris Fool to wind up onlookers) towards the prince, much to the annoyance of his minders. But Charles boomed out: ‘Is that a pig’s bladder or a bull’s bladder?!’
“At the Elder Stubbs gardening and crafts festival in Oxford, Ray and Lynne had a stall with organic produce from their garden.”
Another long-standing Oxford CAMRA member, Chris Bamford, first met Ray when she belonged to the Tree Group organised by Ian Gourlay some 20 years ago. Ray taught a few of them the rudiments of hedge laying one very cold winter afternoon.
“He was a regular at the annual Wychwood Fair where he demonstrated various woodland crafts, woodturning and constructing small items of rustic furniture,” she says. “He supported CAMRA by helping out at many beer festivals, and his home-made pork scratchings were the best!”
Oxford Drinker editor Dave Richardson adds: “I wasn’t fortunate enough to have known Ray for long, but the first time I met him I knew instantly that he was a ‘character’ of the kind you rarely meet nowadays. He served me a couple of times at GBBF and once he seemed to get muddled with the change so that I got my beer and my money back!
“As one pub landlord told me, ‘you couldn’t fall out with Ray’. When we first met he presented me with his business card, which read: ‘Ray Borrett – Carnivorous Plants’. That’s a mystery I might never solve.”
18 March 2016
Cask v Keg What you need to know
Here is a very good article from the Spring 2016 edition of ‘Pints West’, the magazine of the Bristol & District Branch of CAMRA. It summarises the issues, different sorts of keg, and gives CAMRAs (current) position. What do you think? Send us your comments.