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Former Tolly Cobbold chief’s son ‘heart sank’ at sight of cherished brewery in flames

PUBLISHED: 19:00 24 February 2020

Brian Cowie was the joint managing director of the Tolly Cobbold Brewery. Picture: ALAN COWIE

Brian Cowie was the joint managing director of the Tolly Cobbold Brewery. Picture: ALAN COWIE

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The son of former Tolly Cobbold chief Brian Cowie has told how his heart sank as he watched flames engulf the brewery and was grateful that his late mother wasn’t alive to witness it.

Brian Cowie was the joint managing director of the Tolly Cobbold Brewery. Picture: ALAN COWIEBrian Cowie was the joint managing director of the Tolly Cobbold Brewery. Picture: ALAN COWIE

Brian Cowie was the much-loved chief of the Tolly Cobbold brewery for years and his son Alan has spoken about how difficult it was to watch the building go up in flames.

Suffolk firefighters were called to the scene early on Sunday evening when the Cliff Quay site caught alight, prompting a 15-engine response.

Crews from across Suffolk fought the blaze, whcih has caused devastating damage to the building, through the night.

Mr Cowie visited the old brewery many times during his childhood when his father was in charge and said: "It is so much more than just a building - it is a symbol of our history and to see it derelict is a kick in the teeth.

Alan Cowie with his son Ben Brian Cowie, who he named after his father as a small way of continuing his legacy. Picture: ALAN COWIEAlan Cowie with his son Ben Brian Cowie, who he named after his father as a small way of continuing his legacy. Picture: ALAN COWIE

"To be honest its probably the final nail in the coffin of the building.

"When I saw that it was on fire after being left for so long my heart just sank."

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Sadly, the beer chief took his own life in 1999 at the brewery, which has laid derelict since its closure in 2002.

Mr Cowie's father was remembered by his family as a 'workaholic' who loved his job and he in turn was loved by many in Ipswich. Hundreds of mourners attended his funeral.

Alan recalled how his father once saved the day when a school trip in 1998 went awry. He said: "I was 11 and attending St Mary's Primary in Woodbridge when we were on a trip to visit an old ship shored up in the Ipswich marina. It was cancelled at the last minute and I phoned up dad to ask if he could accommodate us and he dropped everything to save the day."

Apparently, the children were perfectly happy with a day of shouting into large copper brewing kettles to listen back for their echo - while teachers enjoyed a little beer sample.

But the now 32-year-old said he and his sisters, Ruth and Linda, were sorry to see the demise of the brewery which their father "poured his heart and soul into".

Their only comfort is that their mother, who passed away two years ago, wasn't around to see the ruin of the building as she would have found it deeply upsetting.

"It feels like a wasted opportunity that this building has been left to decay like this," Mr Cowie said.

"When I think about Tolly Cobbold I try to only remember the good times when business was booming and not the slow demise of the building itself."

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