I took a solemn vow on January 1st, 1983, a vow honoured to the present day. It was that I would list every pub visited. Reader, I married the CAMRA Good Beer Guide.
We were both young and foolish. Well the Guide was ten years old but in human years that made it twenty so it was all perfectly legal. Ill-advised but legal. Of course I admit to casual relationships with the 1981 and 1982 Guides. And yes I even marked them up, opening the 1983 Guide with a modest 173 ticks in the bag. But this time it was the real thing, perhaps inspired by Renee and Renato, whose Save all Your Love for me was the Christmas number one before that rough Phil Collins boy rushed them off top spot, even though he still maintains to this day that you can’t hurry love.
Renee was an Italian tenor resident in the West Midlands. An Aston Villa fan, he was once reputedly asked by manager Ron Atkinson to sing Nessun Dorma at half time after a dismal first half display, telling his players “Now that is passion! Go out and show me some of that in the second half.” The final score is not recorded.
I had moved to work in Carlisle a few months earlier but started 1983 in West Yorkshire. In fact my first recorded tick under the new regime was the Calder and Hebble in Halifax, one of ten listed in that marvellous pubby town. The address of the Calder and Hebble was Huddersfield Road, Salterhebble (A629). Unbeknown to CAMRA, postcodes had been fully rolled out in the UK nine years before. With brevity typical of that era’s Guides it was described as a ‘busy, single-room pub’. It was demolished a few years later.
The second pub that day, the Fiddlers Three, an estate style pub in the Clayton area of Bradford, is now a nursery. After that Aidan, John and I went to Burnley 4 Sheffield Wednesday 1 (attendance 9,644). The next day we went to two Tetley pubs in Gomersal, West Yorkshire. I wish I could remember The Old Saw as the description is ‘pub with unique handpump clips and barmaids’. Surely I would have remembered the barmaids if they were so unique? It was the subject of a planning submission for housing as recently as last year while the Shoulder of Mutton (describes only as ‘village local’) became a funeral director’s in 2017.
It was tough in those days. Pubs in England and Wales were allowed to open for a maximum of 9.5 hours a day. In Scotland they opened from 11-2.30; and 5-11. The Guide, edited by Roger Protz, said “seven districts of Wales are dry or partially dry on Sundays (wish the weather was that good in Paisley). Those areas were subsequently relieved by a referendum on the matter.
There were 6,000 pubs listed in that year’s Guide including a handful in Ireland and the Netherlands. Young completists today have it easy.
The brewery section had expanded to 11 pages as Camra’s influence deepened. Alongside long established regional brewers like Home, Higson’s and Ward’s were a new breed of independents, some of which flourish to this day like Butcombe, Chiltern and Crouch Vale. Many more are a largely forgotten footnote in history (Brown Edge, Coney Hall, Kelly’s, Swimbridge, Strathalbyn, Devanha).
This is the first ever page of my pub records. Despite time on my hands and a leased Ford Fiesta, progress was relatively glacial by modern standards.
Don’t worry I won’t go through them all but I have surprisingly clear recollections of many of these though sadly not of the Elizabethan in Airdrie, visited prior to Airdrie 0 Queen’s Park 1 (attendance 1,447) at the wonderful old Broomfield.
The Mitre Bar, though, is etched into my memory as I went there many times. A tiny Belhaven pub dating from 1927 just off Argyle Street, adjoining another pub, the Fox and Hound. In 1959 the pub was expanded to include the floor above. It was demolished in the 1990s but the bar has been recreated with original fittings in the excellent Riverside Museum in Glasgow.
An oddity was a train trip to see Carlisle United play Charlton Athletic at the Valley. I had been there before so it wasn’t even a new tick – that was before non-league fever kicked in. It was 0-0 and only one pub (one pub!) was visited, the Marquess of Anglesey, a Young’s pub in Covent Garden.
From Covent Garden to the Hillhead Tavern, Kilmarnock is a long stretch. It closed about ten years ago and later became a mosque. Though described as a ‘suburban local’ it was an estate pub with the interior lighting of an undiscovered cave, and sold Maclay 80/- on air pressure via tall founts. This was a very common method of dispense at the time.
The last entry on that first page (which will surely fetch a small fortune at auction long after I have hung up my highlighters) was five pubs in Glasgow with two more overleaf, Cameron’s and the Bon Accord. That day’s game was an unusual Scottish Cup tie at Hampden that ended Queen’s Park 1 Rangers 2 (13,716).
The Horseshoe (“magnificent example of Victorian gin palace decor’) and the Bon (‘a pioneer of real ale in Glasgow’) are still going strong, both very popular and still shifting cask, lots of it in the case of the Bon. The Horseshoe’s 104 feet 3 inch island bar remains a masterpiece. Licensed since 1846, it was one of the last places in Britain where a sedan chair could be hired.
Of the others, the Outside Inn is still trading as the Islay Inn with an emphasis on whisky. The Manhattan, which was mis-spelt in the Guide, later became Stumps as it is near the West of Scotland Cricket ground. Windjammer’s sold Lorimer & Clark 80/-, still brewed in Edinburgh but by then owned by Vaux. This pub has had various names and is currently Firebird.
The Bay Horse in Bath Street (‘city centre bar with no pretensions’) was later demolished. Finally Cameron’s (‘hot peas and vinegar available’) still trades as the Carnavon Bar. Overall, a surprising number of survivors.
I hope you have enjoyed this rather self-indulgent canter down memory lane. Only another 800 pages of listed pubs to get through during this lockdown…..