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King Rama VII at Boon Rawd Brewery
King Rama VII at Boon Rawd Brewery

King Rama VII and Queen Rambai Barni visited Boon Rawd Brewery site twice in 1933

King Rama VIII and Praya Bhirom Bhakdi

Praya Bhirom Bhakdi presented the young King Ananda Mahidol (Rama VIII) with an enamelled beer container in 1938

 

Praya Bhirom Bhakdi was born Boonrawd Sreshthabutra on 13 October 1872, son of Pra Bhirom Bhakdi (Chom Sresthabutra). He was home-schooled by his father until the age of 11, when he was sent to a temple to be further educated by the monks, a custom at the time for Thai boys. Afterwards, he entered a school for boys, and earned honours in all fields of studies. He also learned English with an American Missionary and became quite fluent. He started work at 18 as a teacher, and then moved on to become a clerk at a logging company, Kim Tseng Lee. After 4 years, he moved to Denny, Mott and Dickson, a British-owned logging company. He stayed in the logging business for a while, and became a car dealer for a bit before starting his own ferry business, ferrying the Bangkokians across the Chao Praya River, between Bangkok and Thonburi. The business was a success among many competitors, but with plans to build bridges across the Chao Praya River, he realised that his business would be affected. He first thought of the idea of brewing a Thai-made beer in 1929, and finally sent in a request to the government to build the first Thai brewery in 1930. Meanwhile, Boonrawd toured Germany and Denmark to study the art of making beer. His dream became a reality when Boon Rawd Brewery was established on 4 August 1933, when he was 60 years old. Their Majesties King Prajadhipok (Rama VII) and Queen Rambai Barni visited the brewery site twice - first time on 11 July 1933 to witness breaking ground, and the second time on 28 December 1933 to tour the completed brewery buildings. His Royal Highness The Prince Narisara Nuvadtivongs, the King's uncle and Regent presided over the opening ceremony on 6 July 1934. The first bottle of Thai beer finally rolled off the assembly line on 7 July 1934. Initially, there were 3 brands: Singha, Golden Kite and Stupa, with 3 different liquids. Stupa, it would seem, was the first to go, having had less than acceptable sales figure. Singha and Golden Kite became the staple beers for sometimes, but ultimately Singha won the days. Along the way, there were many other beer brands introduced by the brewery, especially during World War II when raw materials were difficult to import, and ceased altogether at one time. Bear and Key beers used local ingredients. When all raw materials ran out, the brewery depended on its soda water mixer and ice to keep the company afloat. Singha ultimately was the only one left, prefered by both Thai and foreigners alike.

Singha Beer ad 1930s Praya Bhirom Bhakdi with Vidhya and guests Singha Soda Water Ad
Singha Beer ad, 1930s Praya Bhirom Bhakdi with his son, Vidya, and some guests Singha Soda Water ad, 1940

Praya Bhirom Bhakdi

Thai beers in 1935

Golden Kite and Singha Beers Ad, 1935

 

Related links:
Boon Rawd Links

The Singha Story

Boon Rawd Brewery

 

Praya title bestowed

Royal Decree bestowing the title of "Praya" to the then Pra Bhirom Bhakdi, 1925

 

Praya Bhirom Bhakdi helped with many charities in his lifetime, and could be count as a great benefactor of his time, from education, to health, to all things governmental, as well as fire-fighting. He also became an expert in the art of kite flying in Thailand, a national sport back then, and published a book on kite competitions. He acted as fireman on numerous occasions, using his ferries attached with hoses that can pump water from the river, to subdue the flames at riverside buildings. He was finally made Luang Bhirom Bhakdi by His Majesty King Rama VI on 20 November B.E. 2454 (1911), at the age of 39. He became Pra Bhirom Bhakdi on 20 December B.E. 2459 (1916), aged 44, and finally Praya Bhirom Bhakdi on 1 January B.E. 2467 (1924), at the age of 52.
Praya Bhirom Bhakdi flying kite

Praya Bhirom Bhakdi at a Royal Kite Tournament

 

Royal Decoration Royal Decoration Royal Decoration Royal Decoration
Some of the different Royal Decrees granting on Praya Bhirom Bhakdi different Royal Decorations, signed by His Majesty King Vajiravudh (Rama VI)
     
Praya Bhirom Bhakdi

Praya Bhirom Bhakdi with his 2 elder sons and friends

It has always been King Prajadhipok's intention to grant democracy to the Thai people, which was planned for 1932 per the ideals of his late father, King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). This was already known among the lower-ranked aristocracy, whom nevertheless brought about a coup to completely end absolute monarchy, for which the group would benefit greatly. If left to the king to grant a democracy, they would be left out, or would not have the leading role. In any case, about 10 years after the granting of the constitution, the new government decided to end the use of aristocratic titles for men, but retained for women. As soon as Praya Bhirom Bhakdi heard this, he decided he would like to keep his aristocratic name. The Praya thus asked for permission for his descendants to use his titular name as the new surname for his descendants, wanting to keep a name deemed lucky for him, a memory of his father, and one that was bestowed by the King of Thailand. It addition, it was also his wish to distinguished his own business dynasty as a separate family from the larger Sreshthabutra clan. On 4 June 1942, Praya Bhirom Bhakdi registered the use of his titular name of Bhirom Bhakdi, as the new family name. A new dynasty was born. With the abolishment of the old aristocratic titles, he then became known as Boonrawd Bhirombhakdi. In modern times, the Thai people have taken to refer to the old aristocracy using their old titles, to give them the honours they deserved as well as to respect the old Siamese traditions. Funnily, the women's aristocratic titles of Khunying and Thanpuying are still bestowed by the King of Thailand. The men still being granted Royal Decorations, but not the titles that came with such a destinction.

Praya Bhirom Bhakdi was married to Khunying Lamai, and had 3 sons - Vidhya, Prachuab and Chamnong. He died on 23 March 1950, at the age of 77.

Surname Registration

The Bhirombhakdi surname registration

 

Praya Bhirom Bhakdi namecards

Praya Bhirom Bhakdi's old and new namecards

* The title "Praya" is written officially as "Phya" or "Phraya", but it is spelled "Praya" is used here as how it is actually pronounced.

   
  Note: Kun, Luang and Praya are titles of the old Siamese Aristocracy no longer in used. For more information please visit the Aristocratic Titles Simplified section.
   

AD2022 - 150th Anniversary Praya Bhirom Bhakdi

Praya Bhirom Bhakdi at his desk

My most favourite pic of him, at his desk

I am preparing for a new publication to mark the 150th Anniversary of my great-grandfather next year, or in 2022. There are a few items in the pipeline as well. The publication would be a reprint of his diary that was printed and given out to guests as a commemorative on his cremation day, per our old customs. The diary has also been printed on numerous occasions after, though in a cut-down version, one by the government as an encouraged past-time reading for students to learn about notable individuals from the past. He was a businessman as well as a notable fighter who had seen many business battles, and ultimately came out stronger each time. It is very encouraging to read about it in his diary. For me personally, whenever I feel down or defeated, about to give up on something, I always think of him, and I would feel lifted right away, rest a day, and carry-on forward with new energy. So, I will periodically update here about the book and other things in commemorating the 150th Anniversary next year.
     
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Updated 6 March 2021