Bob Scrutton - Appreciations
Reprinted, with many thanks, from Bulbeck Beacon
It was with great sadness that we learnt that Robert Percy 'Bob' Scrutton died peacefully in Addenbrookes hospital on 9th June aged 85.
Robert Percy Scrutton was born on the 27th November 1923. He met his wife Patricia 'Vera', working in a sweet shop owned by her brother in law and married her after a 5 year courtship. They had one son called Paul. During their life together Vera took an interest in catering and they often helped out at one of their local pubs.
Bob trained as a master printer but had to give this up about 43 years ago when he was losing his sight. He and Vera decided to take over a pub and became tenants of the Royal Oak in Commercial End. An evening in Bob's company was extremely entertaining with the bonus of good beer served straight from the barrel behind the bar. Whatever the weather the beer was always served in excellent condition at the correct temperature. Under his management the pub soon became well known around the Cambridge area as Blind Bob's and attracted customers from all walks of life from the aristocracy to us ordinary folk. There were regular jazz evenings with free food and one of the local Morris dance groups was founded there and still come and perform outside the old pub on the May day bank holiday.
It would be an understatement to describe him just as a 'landlord'. Bob was a mine of information on who won, owned, trained and rode the winning horses in the classic races from the fifties up to this year.
About 3 years ago after a short spell in hospital Vera was unable to drive for a while. Bob had bought a second hand Ford Fiesta while she was in hospital and so they wanted a chauffeur and a village retiree volunteered to take this on for Newmarket's Tuesday market days always ending up at the Dullingham Boot. Bob only liked going to real pubs not the restaurant pubs so common nowadays.
Both Vera and Bob loved jazz and were well acquainted with all the local players. When one of their friends passed away many of the local jazz musicians sent him on his way with loud jazz music at the crematorium.
The jazz 'concert' must have been quite a shock for the people turning up for a cremation in the other chapel.
On one occasion Vera wanted to join a group of friends to play bingo. Bob wanted to go to a pub and dictated the route to the driver. All went well until one junction did not quite fit his memory. His driver had no idea where he was. Bob just said, "Keep going down this road and tell me the first stud you see". Sure enough when the stud was seen he was able to confirm that they were driving in the right direction.
Thanks Bob for the 20 plus years you gave to village life and we send love and prayers to Vera, Paul and Maggie, Keighley and Luke.
As John Somers has written, Bob - and Vera - Scrutton were much more than landlords - Bob was a host.. The Royal Oak was a one room pub, and the small circle round the bar would slowly expand to include each individual or group who came in; and Bob would, if necessary, tactfully keep the conversation going, making everyone feel at home. He had a wonderfully stocked memory, and although racing, and sports such as cricket and football, were among his special interests, he could talk on almost any subject, usually with quite forceful opinions - 'Surrey are a poor old side'. He had vivid memories of his time as a printer, recalling generations of undergraduates such as David Frost, who would arrive with last-minute copy for Granta magazine.
He would recognize his customers from their voices - I always suspected from their footfalls in the street outside, or the sounds of their cars - and his knowledge extended to their family and friends, including people whom he might only encounter every few years. One friend of mine was quickly and for ever labelled 'old Chelsea' - Bob scarcely able to credit that an apparently sane person could support that then notorious club.
I was fortunate to meet Bob before I came to live in Commercial End, having driven out to view, from the outside, number 71: the estate agents had given me the particulars, but had not yet acquired a key. Bob soon worked out the reason for my visit, and handed me the back-door key, saying he knew the owners would not mind - they always kept a spare key in the Oak., and he would tell them that evening. The Royal Oak was a true community pub, of the kind that scarcely exists any more, and Bob and Vera kept it fully alive. Bob was a remarkable man, who will be greatly missed, and long remembered. Luckily, many stories about him have been recorded by that superb chronicler of the fens, Michael Jeacock.