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Whenever an annual event such as TFWA Asia Pacific comes around, there are inevitably moments when one remembers those who are no longer with us.
One such individual is Richard Ashworth, who passed away in January after many years outstanding service to this industry, working variously for Jardine Matheson, Allied Domecq and Camus, before later representing Hunting World and LeSportsac in travel retail.
My blog, ‘Farewell to a quintessential English gentleman’, attracted many poignant responses, one of which arrived too late for the original piece but which I now publish with pleasure as Richard’s favourite trade show begins. It’s from his long-time friend and fellow drinks supplier Tony Daintry, with whom I hope to raise a glass this week in honour of our fallen and much-missed companion.
I’ll let Tony take up the story:
A tribute to the man in the pin-stripe suit
In 1979 the new Hiram Walker International principal arrived at the offices of Caldbeck Macgregor Malaysia, the distributors for Courvoisier Cognac and other leading wines and spirits brands
This principal was very different from our normal florid faced, slightly overweight, indifferently dressed visitor.
This one was tall and skinny, wore glasses, had crinkly hair and was dressed in a pin-stripe blue suit. When he ordered sherry for our first lunch and mentioned his last employment was Jardine Matheson, there was much internal merriment in the camp. He was dismissed as a ‘Jardine Johnny’ who would not last a day in the trade. In those days Malaysia enjoyed a fearsome reputation for its very heavy ‘on premise’ activity. Many a spirits executive tried desperately to overfly Malaysia for Singapore, which was thought to be considerably tamer.
So the baptism of fire was arranged with a week-long market visit which would start in Penang and finish in Kuala Lumpur. The plan was to travel with car and driver to meet our supporters in each town as we drove south. The first night was a hardware dealers’ dinner in Penang, where our visitor was set upon by some pre-briefed overly enthusiastic supporters, which resulted in him being carried off to bed. The plan was working, and we could see immediate retirement on the cards.
But we had not counted on the steely resolve of the man in the pin-stripe suit. Night after night on our way south, one of us fell by the wayside. By the time we reached Ipoh, after a terribly enthusiastic session with the Courvoisier Club in Chemor, the team including myself were all wrecks, but, our visitor seemed to have found his second wind, and appeared to be even relishing the next encounter.
And so Richard Ashworth entered the drinks industry, in which he was to remain for almost all of his working life, establishing a network of close friendships at all levels of the industry. Over the years his reputation for determined hard work, integrity and loyalty to both his customers, colleagues and employers grew.
Our paths crossed in the region frequently over the years. RACs, as I knew him, always remained a good friend and confidant. Always debonair, always personable and always happy to provide wise council and sound advice. In his last years, being somewhat more battle scarred, he even sometimes listened to mine.
There are very few ‘scholars and gentlemen’ left in the drinks industry, and indeed the world, but Richard Ashworth was one of them.