Paul Northam: Monocled Norfolk maltster had cameo film role

One of the country's leading maltsters, Paul Northam, who has died aged 89, ran Watney Mann's maltings in Norfolk.

The business expanded when Truman's maltings were brought into the fold as what became the big five breweries took over numerous competitors.

Always colourful, especially in his dress, wearing distinctive pink tartan 'trews' on occasions and sporting a monocle, he was well-respected as a fair trader.

Starting as a pupil brewer at Alton, Hampshire, and later at the Stag's Head Brewery, Pimlico, gave him more insight into the malting barley trade.

He helped many younger traders learn the business and encouraged his former assistant, Heather Jones at Tivetshall, gain a firm foothold in the then very male-dominated trade.

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Grain trader Ivan Bishop, later with Dalgety's, who started with Norfolk-based merchants Wood, Sadd & Moore in 1963, recalled that he would always buy some samples if he had travelled to Great Yarmouth.

He was the first judge of malting barley in the South Norfolk Conservative Association's grain championships, which ran for about 25 years, and was secretary to the association's agriculture committee for many years.

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Paul Cavell Northam, born in London, went to St Paul's School. Living at Barnes, Middlesex, he became a keen rower, and then joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, serving for the duration of the second world war.

He had a stint as a film extra as his trademark monocle got him a small speaking role (in phonetic German) in the classic The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.

In 1959, he moved to Southtown, Great Yarmouth to help run the Watney's maltings, which then included the country maltings at Ditchingham and Tivetshall. Later, when Truman's was taken over, he ran maltings at Long Melford, Bures and Sudbury in Suffolk.

Later, maltings at Abingdon, Oxfordshire and Pontefract, Yorkshire, also came into the fold. He was a respected manager, even when he had the tough task of making redundancies, because he had always treated staff fairly.

A keen rower, he competed in the diamond skulls at Henley in 1951 and over the years hardly missed the annual regatta – even managing a day earlier this summer.

He did, however, miss 1966, when his son, Piers, was born unexpectedly early.

He was elected a Fellow of the Institute of Brewing, judged the national malting barley championships and served for many years as chairman of the publicity committee.

Married for 48 years, he leaves a widow, Nan, daughter Petra and son, Piers, and two granddaughters, Nora and Xsara.

A funeral will be held on August 15 at St John's Church, Epping, at 2.30pm. A memorial service will be held on November 3 (2.30pm) at St James, Garlickhythe, London.

Michael Pollitt

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