John Maurice Armstrong Yerburgh was born on 23rd May 1923, the eldest of two boys, John and Oscar, sons of Guy and Hilda Yerburgh, grandsons of Elma Yerburgh.
Following her husband’s death at an early age, his mother married Major General Sir Guy Salisbury-Jones, Marshal of the Diplomatic Corps and had two children – Mariette and Raymond.
John was educated at St Davids, Reigate and Eton and after serving in the Second World War, latterly at Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he gained an M.A. Degree in Economics.
He joined the Irish Guards as a Guardsman from 1941, rose through the ranks to Captain, and served with the Guards Armoured Division in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. He was also an Intelligence Officer and Technical Adjutant during the Normandy landings and the European Campaign where he was amongst the first troops to enter Brussels in 1944.
After the War, he became involved in the family’s brewing company, Daniel Thwaites of Blackburn. He was appointed a Director on the 21st January 1947, becoming Chairman in 1966, a position he held until 1993 when he became Life President; he was interested in and committed to the success of the Company for more than 67 years.
The Brewery was a major part of his life. He guided the Company’s doubling of its number of licensed outlets, always insisting that any new purchases were freehold and not built with flat roofs! He oversaw the very successful expansion of the Company’s Free Trade activities across the North West of England and in the 1960’s and early 1970’s totally re-built the Company’s Brewery in the centre of Blackburn, which soon became recognised as one of the most modern in Europe. He supported the installation of a fast canning line to meet changing demands and thereafter a new bottling line when times had changed again.
In the early 1980’s he directed the diversification of the Company in the development of its interests into hotels, now known as Shire Hotels & Spas, but which started life as Shire Inns. This award winning business was a direct result of his foresight that in time the Company would have to rely on its customers drinking less beer than they had in the past.
He was greatly respected by all his employees at Daniel Thwaites who affectionately knew him as Mr. John. From the top to bottom he knew his staff, workers and pensioners. Prior to his wedding in 1973, he gave them all and the Company’s licensed outlet Managers and Tenants, £10 each to toast “The Bride and Groom”.
He was especially keen on helping young people and founded the Thwaites Travel Scholarship – a scheme which gave an opportunity for specially selected scholars from local areas to spend three weeks with a family overseas to experience first hand the differing cultures, problems and aspects in contrast to home. In nearly 50 years, over 1000 students benefited from this experience.
He was a great supporter of the Brewery’s Shire Horses and was elected President of the Shire Horse Society in 1983/4. He was also especially keen to help local causes. He strongly supported the setting up of the Daniel Thwaites Charitable Trust which annually gives a portion of Company profits to approved requests.
His commitment and deep interest in Blackburn was evident by his standing for the Conservative Party in the elections of 1959 and 1963 against the late Barbara Castle, only to be beaten by the narrowest of margins.
His other major interest and involvement was his home in Scotland – the Barwhillanty Estate near Castle Douglas, where he preserved and created wonderful gardens and developed and grew the estate. He had a great interest in forestry and from the mid 1950’s, pioneered plantings of commercial forestry in South West Scotland. He was a founder member of Scottish Woodlands and became Chairman of the Regional Advisory Committee of Forestry Commission 1972 – 87 and the Governor of Cumbria College of Agriculture and Forestry 1975 – 1989.
A well known local figure, he was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of Dumfries and Galloway (District Stewartry) in 1989 and Vice Lord Lieutenant in 1992.
He married Ann Jean Mary Maclaren, now Chairman of Daniel Thwaites, in 1973 and is survived by five children and seven grandchildren.
He will be sorely missed: as a father, grandfather, employer and friend.