In June 1963, Guinness welcomed assorted members of the British press to Park Royal and then St James Gate on a three day tour (or bender) in the company of some of Guinness’s most senior executives and, of course, Norris McWhirter.
McWhirter was serving at the time as information officer for Guinness, as well as compiler in chief of the Guinness Book of Records. He led an, erm, interesting life.
Most of the main newspapers of the day were represented on the invite list for the press tour, including The Times, Financial Times, Guardian and Daily Mail.
The official press pack set out the itinerary for the three days, has biographies of key personnel and some distinctly corporate Fun Facts.
There is also a distinct focus on labour relations, highlighting that “all brewery personnel up to Foreman level are Union members” and setting out the sick pay policy in some detail. Was the idea, at least in part, to reassure investors that Guinness was not vulnerable to industrial action, as some other businesses, such as the UK branch of Ford, had begun to seem at the time?
Once the party had been flown to Dublin, things got even more highfalutin, with a dinner including the Taoiseach, the Governor of the Bank of Ireland and the President of the Dublin stock exchange.
The following day’s tour of the Dublin brewery included a “private interview” with the President of Ireland, Éamon de Valera.
Once all the obligatory hobnobbing concluded, our intrepid journalists had the option to stay on for a third day of shopping, touring and visiting the Navan races.
We don’t have any context for this document, so we don’t know if this was an annual affair or a one off and if so, what the reasons were for it.
We do know, thanks to an internal document of expected questions and answers, that they were expecting a wide range of questions on just about everything from production and sales to employment practices.
There were particular sections on Draught Guinness, Harp lager and continuous brewing, which were all new areas for Guinness, as well as questions relating to their acquisition of the Nuttall Confectionery Group in 1961. (A tour of Callard & Bowser was included in the Park Royal leg of the trip).
Below is a sample of the questions and prepared answers. The last one, be prepared, might seem slightly startling.
Is Guinness Really Good for you?
Yes, we have many thousands of testimonies from the medical professional as the value of Guinness.
How much do you spend [on advertising?
About one third of a penny per bottle overall.
Is Dublin stout brewed for Britain the same as Park Royal Stout?
Do you contemplate another brew?
A quick note: they’d just launched Harp Lager so this was about whether they planned to expand the range any further and launch, say, a mango IPA.
How can you expect to do well with beer now that wine and spirit drinking is a “done” thing?
It is true that wine sales are going up quickly but only a comparatively small amount is drunk by a particular section of the population.
What about failure of Common Market Negotiation?
This has not changed our picture. Our main trade within the European Common Market is with Belgium and France where Guinness has always been regarded as a speciality drink commanding a higher price than regular beers.
Why did you build a brewery in Nigeria?
Because it is more economical to brew and bottle locally than to import in bottle as we were doing previously. It is our biggest single overseas market.
Was it wise politically?
We have no reason to think otherwise.
You can read more about the Guinness brewery in Nigeria here.
It has been said that Harp lager sales have been disappointing – is this so?
All lager sales have been disappointing for the past year or two, but Harp distribution was right up to our estimates and sales were not far short.
Is this venture wise – you are now in direct competition with other brewers?
Our Harp lager venture has not in any way prejudiced our happy relations with other brewers.
Why are you selling SS Guinness? Has cross-channel trade declined?
Because it is 32 years old. Our cross-channel trade has NOT declined.
Does Guinness own a computer?
If not, why not?
With our present volume of work, it is more economical to hire time than to own a computer.
Do you employ coloured people at Park Royal?
Yes, from time to time.
What was behind that final question? Were they expecting to be told off for employing black staff, or congratulated for it? That very brief, blunt answer seems designed to avoid the topic.
This is another item from the vast collection of Guinness documents Fiona shared with us last year. We’re slowly working through, digesting and sharing.