Remembering Robin Reid OBE: 1925-2015By Patrick Schmitt
One of the Port trade’s most liked, respected and influential figures, Robin Allan Noel Reid OBE, has died aged 89.
He died at home on 28 May of natural causes, but not before enjoying his habitual post-dinner glass of 10 year-old tawny Port.
Reid was born in Porto on 19 October, 1925, one century after his great grandfather had moved to the city following an invitation from the Portuguese government, who wanted to boost wool exports to the UK.
Having attended the British School in Porto and then Malvern College boarding school in Worcestershire, he joined the Worcestershire Regiment in 1942, and later the Yorkshire and Lancashire Regiment, which sent him to India.
He was released from the armed forces in 1947 as Captain and returned to Portugal, taking up a position at Croft Port in 1948, which he became director of in 1957 and in 1962, managing director. At the end of his career at the Port house he was chairman of the Croft Group of Companies both in Portugal and in Spain.
Among Reid’s notable achievements was the creation of the Confraria do Vinho do Porto to bolster the global sales and image of Port, which took him eleven years of hard work to establish, helped by his great friend, Dr. Francisco Sá Carneiro, who was a lawyer, and set about establishing the brotherhood’s statutes – and later became Prime Minister of Portugal.
Another of Reid’s projects, which he undertook through the Confraria, was to preserve the building of the Barcos Rebelo: the original boats that brought the pipes of port down the river Douro from the Douro valley to Vila Nova de Gaia.
To achieve this, he organised an annual regatta on the River Douro on the 24 June on São João‘s day, the city’s patron saint, and in dosing so, managed to increase the number of boats from just three in the early 80s to over 20 today.
In 1976 together with a number of close and influential Portuguese friends Reid also founded the Circulo do Infante Dom. Henrique, uniting the leading businessmen of northern Portugal to encourage future industry.
Two year’s later, Reid was invited to be director of the Associacão Comercial do Porto and succeeded in making many positive changes in Porto’s historic Palácio da Bolsa, such as opening the Restaurante Telégrafo, whose client list included many government members, as well as throwing open the building’s doors to tourists, attracting over 40,000 visitors annually.
In 1983 Robin was awarded the OBE, and later the Commander of the Order of Merit of Industry and Agriculture from the Portuguese Republic, Commander of the Order of the Circulo do Infante Dom Henrique and Commander of the Order of Merit from the Italian Republic.
In 1990 Robin was made vice-president of the Anglo Portuguese Chamber of Commerce through which he continued to promote Anglo Portuguese business.
Reid was the first British resident in Porto to marry a Portuguese women when he took on Elsa Andresen Nicolau de Almeida on 28 November, 1953, with whom he had four daughters, Olga, Wendy, Joanna and Christian, who in turn have produced six grandchildren.
According to Reid’s great friend, Port writer and Royal Tokaji director Ben Howkins, “Reid was the best raconteur of the Douro of his generation, because, having married Elsa, he spoke fluent Portuguese.”
The quality of Reid’s Poruguese also meant that he “really did bridge the geographical and cultural gap twixt savvy Porto and farming Douro in those early days in the 1960s when the port trade was really in the doldrums,” according to Howkins.
He added, “He was much respected by both countries and both regions and was instrumental in rebuilding confidence in the Port trade.”
Croft Port “flourished” under Reid’s management, and his hospitality at the Port brand’s Quinta da Roeda was “legendary”, but never ostentatious.
Reid was also a great drums player and is remembered by his friends in particular for his generous sense of humour and the twinkle in his eye.
His daughter Olga now manages the British Factory House in Porto, where she carries on the Reid hospitality culture.