Ye Gerbish (Gerald Bishop)
Few readers will have heard of Ye Gerbish, the contraction of his name by which he liked to be known, but he merits a mention as one of CAMRA’s great unsung volunteers who preferred, indeed almost revelled in those mundane but vital tasks that all organisations need doing.
I came across him first as the chief glasswasher at the Great British Beer Festival where he would still be working away at his machine until the early hours of the morning long after the rest of us had gone home. It was Gerbish, I believe, who came up with the trick of opening boxes of new glasses from the bottom so that you didn’t handle the inside of the glass and minimised the risk of injury on any breakages. He also folded raffle tickets in vast quantities for CAMRA’s Games and Collectibles branch. Any of you who have played the ‘Every 1’s a Winner’ tombola will almost certainly have used a ticket folded by him or in the way that Gerbish specified; across then down so that they don’t come open in the bucket. He also used to compile the data from CAMRA’s national prices survey, something which some of us regarded as a vital resource but has sadly now been discontinued.
Helen Toomey, from CAMRA’s South East London branch and a regular volunteer at the Cambridge Beer Festival adds, “Anyone who has ever had a cool ale in a late May heatwave at Jesus Green can thank Gerbish due to his Heath Robinson-esque fridge cooling systems using two litre plastic bottles; never were plastic bottles reused so effectively, along with his wooden coverings that stopped the fridge tops getting smashed.” Helen adds that her first encounter with ‘an uncomplaining Gandalfian figure’ was in 2007 when he was scrubbing PVC cask covers with no assistance. She offered to help, but was refused. No doubt he had his own way of doing that job as well.
Helen also drew my attention to the fact that in American slang, ‘gerbish’ is the fourth meal of the day, what I think that we would call the munchies. I don’t know if this had anything to do with his choice of adopted name. To be honest, it never looked as if Gerbish had one meal a day, let alone four.
Gerbish was an intelligent, educated, thoughtful and gentle man who did things his own way which sometimes sadly brought him into conflict with others. As Colin Valentine, CAMRA’s national chairman remarked, Gerbish was, “one of the great eccentrics in an organisation that has had more than its fair share of them.” We send our condolences to his brother Ron, and DPH, his teddy bear, who he also recruited as a CAMRA member (Yes, the bear, not his brother!).