Thursday, 24 March 2016

Drunken draymen

Random something found in research for something totally unrelated. It's from a French magazine that published translations of English-language articles.

This was first published in Chambers's journal:

"Just because a man is never drunk, it doesn't mean he isn't drinking more than he should. The workers of the large breweries in London, for example, draymen especially, consume a huge amounts of beer. The daily ration from their employer is very large, but it isn't enough. In addition, draymen get a lot of free beer from the customers they deliver barrels to. As a result, it's not unusual for a man to drink 10 to 14 quarts (about 11 to 16 liters); however, they are not drunkards in the ordinary sense of the word. The very nature of their work requires strong men, strength is an essential requiremnt for the trade. But if one of these men is hurt or is forced to go to bed for some other accident, he will almost certainly suffer from delirium tremens; and a head injury is often fatal. Brewery workers are known in hospitals as the worst candidates for operations, as they are predisposed to the most dangerous complications that hinder the success of surgical treatment."
"Revue Britannique, volume 4", 1892, page 115. (Mine and Google's translation.)
Barclay Perkins draymen were renowned for being big bastards.Which you'd need to be if you were delivering hogsheads all day. Just as long as they didn't bang their heads on a cellar roof.

Pisshead draymen is a recurring theme. Free beer in every pub being the problem. My mum told me that the ones that delivered beer in Handsworth were always plastered by the end of the day and relied on the horses to take them around their route. But 10 or 14 quarts is a stack of beer. Even if it were just Porter, the cheapest draught beer, it would be at least 5% ABV in the 1890's. Anything else would be stronger.

The article has some good stuff about opium use in late 19th-century Britain, too.

Here's the original French text:

"De ce qu'un homme ne s'est jamais enivré, il ne s'ensuit pas qu'il ne boive pas plus qu'il ne le devrait. Les ouvriers des grandes brasseries de Londres, par exemple, les camionneurs surtout, consomment une quantité de bière énorme. La ration quotidienne que les patrons leur accordent est très forte, mais ils s'en contentent rarement. En outre, les camionneurs en reçoivent beaucoup, ‘a titre gracieux, des clients auxquels ils livrent continuellement des barils. Il en résulte que 10 à 11 quartes (environ 11 à 16 litres) ne sont pas une consommation exceptionnelle pour un homme; cependant, ce ne sont pas des ivrognes dans le sens ordinaire du mot. La nature même de leur travail nécessite l'emploi d'hommes robustes, la force étant une obligation dans le métier. Mais si l'un de ces hommes se casse un membre ou est contraint de s'aliter pour un autre accident quelconque, il est presque sûr d'être atteint de delirium tremens ; et une blessure à la tête est souvent pour lui mortelle. Les ouvriers de brasserie sont connus dans les hôpitaux comme les pires sujets à opérer, prédisposés qu'ils sont aux plus dangereuses complications qui entravent le succès d'un traitement chirurgical."
"Revue Britannique, volume 4", 1892, page 115.


Phil said...

The bit about getting the DTs if forced to stay in bed suggests that they were drunk, permanently - as indeed you would be if you drank 20 pints of 5% porter on Monday, then got up on Tuesday morning and did it all over again.

Matt said...

The former Tory party leader William Hague claims that he drank fourteen pints a day when he was a teenager working on a dray in the summer holidays.

Stephen McNena said...

I assume a quart is two pints? A quarter of a gallon. So a quart is 2*568ml = 1.136 L.

Stephen McNena said...

I assume a quart is two pints? i.e. a quarter of a gallon. So a quart is 1.136 L.

Curmudgeon said...

I wonder to what extent that continued to take place until the introduction of the breathalyser in 1967 (and possibly afterwards).

Chap said...

You'll remember that William Hague was the object of some derision when he claimed (in an interview with GQ magazine in 2000) to have drunk 14 pints a day when working as a teenaged drayman in Rotherham.

Harry said...

I worked for a large national soft drinks company which delivered to pubs in the 1980's. One November the shop steward failed the breathalyser after pulling over onto the hard shoulder and using his front wheel as a urinal. He should have been sacked but the risk of a strike losing us the lucrative Christmas trade meant he was only demoted to a drivers assistant.