Obituary: Bertram Bulmer
Friday 15 January 1993
BERTRAM BULMER, the former chairman of the family cider firm HP Bulmer, who steered it to full stock-exchange listing in 1970, was a man inspired by change.
Bulmer had a keen eye for new developments, always carrying with him a small pocket notebook in which to note down anything that caught his eye and which he felt might be put to good use. A very approachable person, he was prepared to listen to what people had to say. He would pursue an idea until it either succeeded in practice or was clearly a loser. This was matched with an ability to direct without dictating, giving others a feeling of involvement and ultimately of achievement.
One of Bulmer's early innovations was to introduce the production of pectin by the company in 1937. This process made use of the waste pomace left over from the pressing of apples, waste that was up until then sold to the pectin producers of the day. He realised that this was to hand away a profit margin that, with the volume of pomace produced by the firm, could be retained. This development eventually led to a substantial increase in the number of employees by the company.
Bertram's father was Fred Bulmer, one of the founding brothers of the company. Having finished his studies - like many of the Bulmer family at King's College, Cambridge - Bertram was appointed director of the company in 1924. He remained a director for 63 years.
During his earlier years in the company, and because he was well able to communicate in both French and German (his mother, Sophie, was from Liverpool but of German parents), Bulmer travelled extensively. Initially, he went with Dr Durham, the company scientist, to Normandy and Brittany buying cider apples. Later he travelled further afield.
In 1933 he married Christine Laughton. The Bulmers went to United States where Bertram witnessed the end of Prohibition; this prompted him to promote Bulmer cider sales successfully in the US. In 1937 Bulmers purchased a 50 per cent interest in Bulmer Magner & Company, which took over the Irish cider-making business of of W. Magner in County Tipperary. Bertram was in charge of this business from the time of purchase and would visit Ireland frequently as that company progressed.
In the 1960s he went searching for citrus peel in order to improve the quality and variety of pectin produced by Bulmers, and with Cadburys set up a production plant in Ghana which was successful in supplying the Hereford factory with dried peel for many years. He would not however rely on one source of supply, and so secured additional supplies of dried peel elsewhere.
In the late 1960s, with David Bulmer, one of his uncle's grandchildren, he visited Australia with a view to setting up a cider production plant there. Having investigated the lie of the land, they chose to build the first plant 30 miles from Sydney. David remained out there but Bertram continued to take a keen interest in the rapid development of that market.
Having succeeded his cousin Howard Bulmer as Chairman in 1966, it was necessary for him to be available for corporate matters in Hereford much of the time. He would entertain moderately but genuinely, and his guests would enjoy quite remarkable hospitality from his family both in Hereford and Anglesey where several shoots were run each year. Christine was an immense support to him, organising the accommodation and cooking superb meals for the guests. During a shoot he would outlast anyone near his age (and many much younger) in stamina and agility.
A keen fisherman, particularly of salmon on the Wye, he would also get involved in cockling, collecting mussels and putting out lobster-pots. Indeed he was known to entice the lobsters out of holes in the rocks round Anglesey and catch them by hand or in a net.
In 1973 he handed over the chairmanship of the Company to Peter Prior, the first chairman who was not a family member, and stayed on as a non-executive director until 1987.
His way of life kept him close to the industry he loved and in 1980, after some years of planning, he founded the Museum of Cider in Hereford. Later he became interested in reintroducing cider brandy to England. He knew that 200 years before cider brandy had been produced in England, and wished for the revival of such a distillery. After battling with Customs and Excise for two and a half years he was granted the first excise licence to distil cider. So came into being his King Offa Cider Brandy - a term which the EEC in Brussels tried in vain to confine to grape distillation.
Bertram Bulmer held the Queen's Warrant for cider supply for many years, and held it with pride. He was President of the National Association of Cider Makers and Life President of the European Cider Markets Association. In the 1940s he served as a Liberal member of Hereford City Council. In his younger years he played an active role in the work of the League of Nations and chaired the Hereford Co-op Housing. Being a Freeman of the City of Hereford was another of the distinctions he valued greatly, as was his election to the Worshipful Company of Distillers and the French Calvados Connoisseurs Association.
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