Life is Just for Living
Sometimes a person is born into this world and spends their entire life doing great things. Paul Geddes was one of those people. That’s him on the right in the above picture. Let’s back up a little.
Paul Hargreaves Geddes was born in Jamaica on February 13, 1910. His father, Thomas Hargreaves Geddes, started a company with a friend named Eugene Desnoes (deh-know). The company was incorporated on July 31, 1918 as a confectionary, flavours and essences, and soft drink manufacturer in Jamaica. They named it Desnoes & Geddes (D&G). Paul started working in his father’s company as a floor sweeper. He found himself doing whatever needed to be done around the place. One of his best stories is that it was amazing what he would hear because nobody paid any attention to him. He made sure to sweep the floors during the big company meetings. He made it his business to know everything that went on in the company.
The following describes some of the highlights of the Red Stripe story:
In 1928, Thomas and Eugene produced the first brew of Red Stripe Beer. It was undrinkable. Paul begged his father to let him try because he knew he could make it a success. Thomas and Eugene laughed at him but gave him the go-ahead. Paul left Jamaica for a brewmasters school in Chicago. He became the first brewmaster of Jamaica. Paul and a man named Bill Martindale concocted the recipe for the Gold Medal, multiple award-winning Red Stripe Beer that is brewed today. Bill Martindale was a German brewmaster which is probably why the beer is a lager. Those were days of depression and war. Bill was taken away and imprisoned in a concentration camp. Paul was left alone.
Desnoes & Geddes was originally located on Pechon Street in Kingston, Jamaica and was named Surrey Brewery. In 1949, Paul knew it was time to expand the brewery capacity, yet there was much hemming and hawing from the powers that be. Paul was adamant. He purchased the new property with a personal check. The brewery later moved to its new, current location (Hunt’s Bay) on Spanish Town Road in Kingston.
Red Stripe has been well-known from early days for its girlie calendars used in marketing. They realized the advantage of using seductively poised beautiful women for marketing Red Stripe Beer.
When reggae hit the music scene, D&G recognized the important direction reggae music was headed. The company decided to pair reggae music and Red Stripe for marketing. Cindy Breakspeare was one of Red Stripe’s first spokesmodels. Paul always smiled when he spoke of Cindy. She’s also the mother of Grammy winner, Damian Marley. Yes, he is Bob Marley’s youngest son.
Paul sponsored Ernie Smith to go to the 1972 World Popular Song Festival of Yamaha Foundation in Tokyo with his song “Life is just for Living“. Ernie won the grand prize with his song. He was the first Jamaican musician to win an international music award. Ernie sang this song at Paul’s funeral.
Paul Geddes was always way before his time. He brewed a light beer in the late 60’s. It was a miserable failure but it was brewed again, very successfully, in Jamaica in 2000. It was just launched in the U.S. in February 2010.
D&G has been a closely held public company since the 1970. Red Stripe Beer is exported and loved worldwide. The information I’ve found on the internet about the company has a lot of mistruths. Wikipedia, as well as many others, have some major mistakes on their Red Stripe information. They even have the founder’s name and Paul’s name wrong.
The Red Stripe brewery makes all Jamaicans very proud. It is also brewed in Bedford, England, under license at the Charles Wells Brewery. Sometimes it is brewed under license in the Eastern Caribbean.
The brewery also brewed/brews Dragon Stout, Heineken and Guinness (under license), McKewan’s Strong Ale and D&G Malta (non-alcohol brew by-product). D&G produced more than beer. In 1947, D&G became bottlers and distributors of the Pepsi line. They also bottled Schweppes and had a wine and spirits division.
They made many soft drinks such as grape, fruit punch, cream soda, grapefruit, pineapple, orange, kola champagne (yummy!), and Paul’s father’s special recipe of ginger beer.
My favorite D&G “sof” drink is the grapefruit drink called Ting. It’s an all natural soda that D&G started in 1976. It’s ingredients are: carbonated water, sugar, 6% grapefruit juice (sourced from Jamaica), and natural grapefruit flavor. This could easily be made at home, although it may not taste exactly the same. Pepsi Cola (Jamaica) Bottling Co. owns Ting now. They bought the entire soft drink line in 1999.
Paul gave all the recipes, in old binders, to his wife… some extremely sought after original recipes. She wouldn’t let me say more than this. She also knows the true story (of course, it involves Paul) behind the world-famous Tia Maria… look for this in a future post.
Paul was titled in Jamaica, the Honorable Paul Geddes. It is clear that he was a successful businessman, but what you may not know is that he was a generous, kind, caring and wonderful man. He loved agriculture. His own yard was three-acres filled with tropical fruit trees and exotics. Whenever produce from the yard was harvested and served, Paul would proudly announce, “this is from the property.”
I will miss our long talks about life (and gardening) on the verandah. We never tired of discussing essential oils and flavors in detail. Paul died on June 9, 1999 at the age of 89. We all miss him dearly. I am so proud that he was my step-father. He’s been my inspiration. He taught me to just be myself and do what I love. Like a broken record, he always told me, “DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY!”
My children are also proud of the Red Stripe legacy. It will always be a part of their lives.
Come grow with us!