Friday, 15 November 2013

Stealing Bass No. 1 Ale

See if you can work out what I'm doing in the background currently. It's pretty obvious, really.

I don't know if you'd realised, but what you see here in the blog really is just the tip of the iceberg. Most of the work I do doesn't directly lead to anything concrete, like a blog post. But the accumulation of data means that when, for example, I want to write about the Dutch brewing industry in the 20th century, I have most of the information I need to hand.

I was intrigued that this newspaper report went so far as to specifically name the beer stolen Bass No. 1 Ale. I take it as a sure sign of its fame. Why bother naming it if the readers wouldn't have heard of it?

At first I wondered what the hell they were on about with "National Army". It was only when I looked at the newspaper in which it occurred that I twigged: the events took place in Ireland.

Charge Against A Soldier at Cove

At Cove District Court yesterday, before Mr. P. O'Sullivan, B.L.,

Michael Turley, a private in the National Army, was charged on remand with having, on the night of July 8th, or morning of July 9th, broken and entered The military canteen at Haulbowline and stolen seventeen bottles of No. 1 ale, the property of Martin J. Maguire.

Martin J. Maguire said he was the licensed tenant of the military wet canteen at Haulbowline. On July 9th. about 11 a.m.. he visited the canteen and found window at the back broken. There were blood stains on the window. At the rear of the canteen was a quantity of blood, and the upper portion of set of false teeth, with two bits missing. He went to the Guard station, and Sergeant Griffin returned with him. Witness saw Sergeant Griffin pick up a soldier's button, and another Guard picked up a soldier's cap badge. When witness first went the canteen he found two or three broken ale bottles outside the window. The value of seventeen bottles of ale would be 17s.

Annie O'Sullivan, attendant at the canteen. deposed that on the evening of July accused was the in the canteen. Witness noticed that there were two bits of teeth missing in accused's mouth. Witness locked up between 9.30 and 10 p.m. The following morning she found that there were about seventeen bottles of Bass' No. 1 ale missing.

Private Frank Galvin said he was stationed the Cove military hutments. He was on duty Haulbowline July 8th. and accused was also a member of the party. About 1 a.m. on July 9th witness and the sergeant of the guard went to the canteen. Accused was there, hanging from the window. He was conscious, but he had signs of drink, and his clothes were torn. They brought him to the guardroom and put him to bed. One of his feet was bleeding.

Sergt. Collins, who had previously given evidence in the case, was recalled, and stated that when he first got to the canteen accused was hanging over the window. Witness laid him on the ground and summoned Pte. Galvin and Pte. Moore. When they got back the accused was still on the ground.

Pte. Ml. Moore deposed that when they got to the canteen the accused was hanging over the window and not on the ground. At 11.30 p.m. accused had been placed on sentry duty near the guardroom. It was Sergt. Collins who pulled the accused off the window.

Lt. T. Gleeson said he proceeded to Haulbowline on July 9th, in consequence of a message he received. Accompanied by Sergt. Griffin he went to the guardroom and ordered the guard to turn out. He noticed Turley's tunic was broken and his false teeth were missing. Sergeant Griffin produced a set, and accused admitted they were his.

Pte. John Phipps, Army Medical Corps, gave evidence of having dressed accused's foot on July 9th.

This concluded the evidence, and when cautioned, the accused said : "I got a few drinks before went in. I was never in court before. I only drank three or four bottles of Bass and threw the empty bottles out the window."

He was then returned for trial in custody."
Cork Examiner - Saturday 17 July 1926, page 6.
Judging by the state of  Turley, he was well pissed. He'd lost his false teeth, he was hanging out of a window, his clothes were torn and his foot bleeding. Sounds like a fun night out.

Out of curiosity, I  looked up Haulbowline on a map. What an odd place. It's an island in Cork harbour that was developed as a naval dockyard in the first decades of the 19th century. Currently, it's the headquarters of the Irish navy. There's now a road linking it to the mainland, but that was only built in 1966. When the events in the article took place it could only be reached by boat.

I can think of another reason, other than its renown, that Bass No. 1 was named. People would know that it was an expensive beer. To contextualise the price of 1 shilling a bottle, in 1930 a pint bottle of Guinness Extra Stout cost 10d*. At least in the UK. Beer prices may, like today, have been a little higher in Ireland. In the 1920's, a pint of . . . . hang on. It's easier to do this in table form.

Here, for comparison purposes, are the prices and gravities of some Barclay Perkins:

Barclay Perkins draught beers in 1926
Beer Style Price size package OG
Porter Porter 5d pint draught 1038.1
X Mild 6d pint draught 1044.8
Pale Ale Pale Ale 7d pint draught 1045.6
Stout Stout 8d pint draught 1053.8
Strong Ale Strong Ale 8d pint draught 1057.4
Truman Gravity Book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number B/THB/C/252.

And remember that wouldn't have been a pint bottle of No. 1. More likely a half pint. According to an analysis I have from 1927, Bass No. 1 Ale had an OG of 1105º and an ABV of 9.13%**.

* Truman Gravity Book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number B/THB/C/252.
** Younger, Wm. & Co Gravity Book document WY/6/1/1/19 held at the Scottish Brewing Archive.


The Beer Nut said...

"Cove" is a bit of a rarity. It was Queenstown from 1850 to 1920 then changed to the current name of Cobh. I guess it took a little while for the Irish spelling to catch on. My missus did a bit of work on Haulbowline (HALL bo-lin, pronunciation fans) when she worked for the Department of the Environment. As well as the Navy, Irish Steel was based there until 2002 and the place is now a wee bit more radioactive than some people are comfortable with.

Oblivious said...

Haulbowline was handed over to the free state in 1923, so that Bass No1 could well have been for that time.

Even though these was no road to it, it had a large dock that employed 3,00 men during WW1. So there could have been a substantial free state navel presence

Martyn Cornell said...

Hmmm - you may be right about No 1 being Bass, Ron, but there was also Macardles' No 1 from Dundalk

The Beer Nut said...

The Smithwick's flagship ale was also called No. 1. I'm sure there were others, possibly more local to Haulbowline than Dundalk or Kilkenny.

Ron Pattinson said...

It does say specifically Bass No. 1 in the article.