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Beer history

The Strange Death of Ronny Fincham

In December 1989, 60-year-old, 20-stone Ronald Henry Fincham stripped naked and climbed into a vat of beer at the brewery in Romford, where he drowned.

He was celebrating 25-years service at the brewery and, according to one not-entirely-reliable source, The Weekly World News, had been out on the town with colleagues but crept back into the brewery after kicking out time, climbed a six foot ladder and slipped into 35,000 pints of beer that had been returned from pubs.

His wife, the WWN said, reported him missing the next morning and his clothes were found next to the vat. Under police orders, the tank was drained and Mr Fincham’s body was found at the bottom.

Walthamstow Coroner Dr. Harold Price recorded a verdict of death from natural causes. He didn’t think Mr Fincham’s death could be blamed on alcohol because Ron ‘was known as a man who could take his drink’, though he did observe that a few beers might have made him less cautious than usual.

This story still crops up from time to time in ‘It’s a Wacky World!’-type filler features and we assumed it was an urban legend until we found it recorded in the Guardian. Poor old Ron.

Sources: The London DrinkerApril 1990; ‘News in Brief’, Guardian, 20/12/1989; ‘Vat’s All Folks: Boozed-up brewery worker drowns in huge tub of beer’, Weekly World News, 29/12/1989; ‘News Diary’, The Age, 22/12/1989. Record of Mr Fincham’s death and full name from public records via Ancestry.co.uk. Main photo: ‘glc – control panel ind coope brewery romford 82 JL’ by and © John Law, via Flickr.

4 replies on “The Strange Death of Ronny Fincham”

Before the bloody elf-n-safety brigade ruined all the fun, there was a steady stream of injuries and deaths among brewery workers – a recent issue of the Scottish Brewing Archive Association journal compiled a list of cheery newspaper reports. Scalding to death or asphyxiation from CO2 were a couple of the more common causes. Ron was quite lucky.

That seems a large quantity of returned beer and really no idea why returned beer would go in a vat. Dare I suggest a little bit of spin to avoid giving anyone idea beer going out from pub could have been swum in

It seemed a high number to us, too, but then maybe it was from across the Allied estate? But you might be right about spin.

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