Sunday, 16 December 2012

Hawking carters (part two)

We're back with those hawking carters.

It's got me thinking about something. When I was a kid, my Dad used to order beer from Davenports. ("Beer at home means Davenports, that's the beer, lots of cheer." I can still remember the song from the TV advert.) Where did they stand legally? If I remember rightly the beer was delivered during the day. I am pretty sure that, unlike Falkirk's carters, the Davenports driver s didn't go around knocking on doors trying to flog beer.

They're back discussing the licence options. An excise licence only allowed the sale of over a certain quantity of beer, because it was intended for wholesalers, not retailers.

"Mr Learmonth (continuing) said it was being carried out so far as it was possible for his clients to do so. As to whether an excise licence would meet the case, he had to submit that it would still further encourage shebeening. Under an excise license a party could take 4.5 dozen of beer, when at present he only ordered a dozen bottles. He hoped his friend would hold it to be sufficient for the present that he had ventilated the subject. It was out of all reason that his clients, who had held a licence for a great number of years, should be brought up here and made to answer a charge of this kind when no complaint was made against them. The charges for hawking which Mr Gordon had referred to were charges which affected another district altogether. In the circumstances it would fair to continue the licences at present."
Falkirk Herald - Wednesday 12 April 1899, pages 4 - 5.

I can understand the annoyance at being punished for the misdeeds of others.

"Mr James Aitken, brewer, said that his firm had held a licence for a great deal more than a century, although his memory, did not go back quite so far as that- (laughter) - and they had never had any complaint made to them, either  officially or unofficially, of their, men hawking liquor in any shape or form. That being so there was surely no reason for not renewing an old certificate so long held by his firm. They had always traded in a fair and straightforward way, and he hoped that would long be their aim. He thought that if bottlers in the neighbourhood would prevent their men from selling to anyone except licence-holders at wholesale prices, the objection would be got rid of. His own firm did not supply private parties except at the gross price of the goods.

Mr Learmonth said that an association of aerated water manufacturers had been formed and the matter would have their best consideration. There was this difficulty to contend with in the matter of withdrawal from the commission on the sale of beer, that if they gave them no commission they would leave the licensed grocer with whom they had been in the habit of dealing and go next door to the private individual and perhaps sell him the same beer at almost double the price he would have to account for to his employer. That being so, he did not think the withdrawing of the commission on the sale of beer would be a great success.

Mr Aitken said that his firm had given it a trial for nearly two years, and had to abandon it. The men got a considerable increase in wages to give up the commission, but the change was not satisfactory."
Falkirk Herald - Wednesday 12 April 1899, pages 4 - 5.
Mr. Aitken, as you probably recall, was the owner of the eponymous brewery in Falkirk. Getting carters to forego their commission on beer sales clearly wasn't as simple as it sounded. As the carters were free to move to other employers who did pay commission.

Shebeening is another one of those things, like women drinking, that the authorities were obsessed with in the 19th century. Basically it was an illicit pub, where a private individual bought a large amount of drink wholesale and then retailed it in their house. There seems to have been a fair bit of anti-Irish prejudice in the concern about shebeening which, you will note, was described by a word derived from Irish.

"The Clerk said that it was within their Honours' power either to withdraw the licences, to continue the public-house licences, or to substitute for them grocers' licences. The latter method would not affect the question of hawking to any great extent, as the bottlers would send out their lorries the same as at present. They would not, however, have the right to sell liquor to be consumed on the premises as at present. As to the supplying of shebeens, it could hardly be made the subject of complaint against a bottler if he sold beer to a reasonable quantity to people who gave the order in the regular way. He would suggest that employers should try and see that their men better carried out the instructions that they got, as it was quite an open secret that the orders in the bottlers' books were not the orders carried out by the men. They gave an order for a spirit dealer for six dozen of beer or so, and went and sold that beer to private individuals at a larger price."
Falkirk Herald - Wednesday 12 April 1899, pages 4 - 5.

It seems that the bottlers weren't the only ones whose carters were pushing drink. The grocers were, too, but with whisky.

"Bailie Hamilton said that while he sympathised with a great deal that the Provost had said as to the bottlers overstepping the law by supplying drink to people who were not entitled to it, he thought that the proper course to follow was to adopt the suggestion of Mr Gordon and grant a grocer's certificate. He moved accordingly. He knew of grocers in the town who had two or three vans on the road, not hawking beer but whisky. He knew of a case where there were hundreds of gallons of whisky sold by grocers the country, and for them to step in now and to take such drastic proceedings against bottlers was to allow the grocers to continue their hawking was not just and reasonable. Supposing the bottlers got an excise licence, they would be entitled to sell four dozen of beer to one party and that was a strong reason for setting up a shebeen. Under the present licence a carter could not so sell four dozen bottles of beer. The people must first give him their order, and he had to go back to the bottler and get them before delivery. They could depend upon it that the carters would take ways and means of getting their liquor disposed of. He, however, hoped, that after what had been said by Mr Gordon, that the bottlers would endeavour to sell to wholesale people, and if they did sell to retail dealers, let them charge the regular retail prices."
Falkirk Herald - Wednesday 12 April 1899, pages 4 - 5.

What was the net result in Falkirk? The bottlers were given grocers' licences, which didn't seem to change anything much, as they could still send out carts and had never really sold beer for consumption on the premises anyway.

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