Derek Balls, co-founder and patron of Master Innholders, dies aged 90

08 May 2014 by

Derek Balls, former Master of the Worshipful Company of Innholders, and co-founder and honorary patron of the Master Innholders (MI), has died at the age of 90.

Well-known wine merchant Balls (of wine merchants and bars Balls Brothers) was born in 1923, became a liveryman of the Worshipful Company in 1944, and master in 1977.

Following the Mayor of London's suggestion that the traditional livery companies re-evaluate their trade links, then-Company Master Balls worked together with hoteliers Douglas Barrington and David Locket, and the HCIMA (now the Institute of Hospitality), to form the Master Innholders, which launched in 1978.

While Barrington went on to be chairman and Locket was clerk for 25 years, Balls was never a member of the MI (but was made honorary patron in 2012).

The MI now has over 120 current members, including a significant number of respected industry figures in London, across the UK, and overseas. It has also run a manager development programme since 1996.

Current clerk Dougal Bulger paid tribute to Balls' significant legacy. He said: "He was involved right up until the end, and played an instrumental part in the history of both the Worshipful Company and the Master Innholders."

Locket, who recalled that in later years Balls had been a bellringer for his local Suffolk church, said: "He will leave several legacies, especially as a great link between the Worshipful Company and Master Innholders. He will be remembered for his vision."

Harry Murray, former chairman of the MI (1986), current chairman at the Lucknam Park Hotel, and the 2008 Lifetime Achievement Cateys winner, said that Balls had always been extremely helpful to him during his chairmanship. He added: "We always looked to him as the founder, and we all have fond memories of him."

Balls was also a keen yachtsman and skier. He died in hospital after a very short illness, following a stroke. He was pre-deceased by his wife, Sheila Chiesman, and leaves four children - Christine, Richard, Catherine and Rosie; ten grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

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