A Name Worth Remembering: Arthur Guinness

“Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering.”

– Theodore Roosevelt –

As we explained last week when Corman introduced us to Phillipe Petit, each Wednesday we hope to introduce you to a man that we just think you should, for one reason or another, get to know. To me, Arthur Guinness is most definitely one of those guys.

I imagine most of you are to some extent already familiar with Arthur Guinness, or at least the beer he brewed and made famous. After all, more than ten million glasses of Guinness are consumed every day (yes, ten million, every day). The company has a worldwide presence, an iconic ad campaign, and  the award-winning widget. And they have great beer.

But this is not about the beer (at least not entirely). It’s about the man behind the beer, whose name you should definitely remember.

Allow me to quote at length from Stephen Mansfield’s book, The Search for God and Guinness:

“What distinguishes the Arthur Guinness story is not just that he brewed good beer and sold great amounts of it. What distinguishes his story is that he understood his success as forming a kind of mandate, a kind of calling to a purpose of God beyond just himself and his family to the broader good he could do in the world.”

He later writes:

“In the minds of most people in the world, Guinness is a beer and that is all there is to the story. But this is far from true. Guinness the beer is magnificent, yes, but it is the Guinness culture that for nearly two centuries changed the lives of Guinness workers, transformed poverty in Dublin, and inspired other companies to understand that care for their employees was their most important work. It was the Guinness culture of faith and kindness and generosity that moved men to seek out ways to serve their fellow men, to the mend what the harshness of life had torn.”

I firmly believe that any man in general, and especially those men seeking purpose, seeking fulfillment in their careers or social lives, would be well served to familiarize himself with the life of Arthur Guinness.

Firstly, not only did Arthur (let’s just call him Arthur, as if we’ve had a few pints with him at the local pub) make great beer, but he perfected a craft over decades of hard work and countless hours. A craft passed down from his father, none the less. I may be talking out of turn here, but I think a lot of us in our twenties and thirties walk around with a sense of entitlement (and I’m definitely including myself here). A sense that we should be able to jump out of college, enter the workforce, make a great salary, and buy a house in a neighborhood just like our parents, if not better. That by thirty we should be driving a nice car and enjoying a membership to the local golf club because, well, maybe our parents drive nice cars and have memberships at the local golf club. Maybe that’s how we grew up and that’s how we think life is. The reality is, though, that we ignore the numerous years our parents and the countless hours that our parents put into their work. The amount of time our parents had to perfect their craft and earn the living standard they now enjoy.

Secondly, and much more importantly, not only did Arthur amass a not-so-small fortune, but he used his wealth to better the lives of those around him and created such a strong culture at the Guinness company that his tradition of public service has been carried on for the past two hundred years. Keep in mind that in the history of Ireland, Dublin has not always been a pleasant, vibrant, or even bearable city. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Dublin had the highest death rate of any city in Europe. It was a breeding ground for disease, was filled with poverty, famine, and overcrowding. And it was during those times that Guinness reached out to its employees and the community to bring a light to the darkness. Let me share just a few ways:

Again, according to The Search for God and Guinness:

  • Arthur founded the first Sunday schools in Ireland in an effort to fight the poverty and crime that plagued the children of Ireland. He also chaired the board of a hospital for the poor.
  • A Guinness worker during the 1920s received full medical and dental, massage services, subsidized meals, a pension, education benefits, free concerts, lectures and entertainment, and two pints of Guinness a day.
  • During World War I, not only did Guinness guarantee all employees who served in the war that their job would be waiting for them when they returned home, but they continued to pay half salaries to the family of each servicemember. (In World War II, each service member received a pint of Guinness to enjoy on Christmas Day.)
  • A Guinness chief medical officer established the Irish Version of Red Cross, largely from his participation in home visits of Guinness employees who were fighting the aforementioned disease.

Arthur Guinness. A man who worked hard to perfect a craft he loved, and used that craft the better the world around him. This is a man you should know.

To learn more about him, check out the following resources:

The Search for God and Guinness, by Stephen Mansfield

Arthur’s Round: The Life and Times of Brewing Legend Arthur Guinness, by Patrick Guinness

The Genius of Guinness, by Michele Guinness

Oh, and there’s always Wikipedia

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Categories: A Name Worth Remembering

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