Saturday, 4 February 2012

Drinking inside Aitken

Drinking in breweries used to be common. I doubt there was a dry brewery in the country 50 years ago. Drinking went on before, during and after work. Health and safety concerns have, I fear, ended the fun.

Here Jimmy Manson, once an Aitken employee, remembers:

"We used to get free beer. You were allowed to go to what we called the Murly when you started work at 7-30am, at lunch, and when you finished at 5pm. The amount of free beer that you got was dependant on the size of the container that you look along, although obviously there were limits. And even with all this for nothing, there was still the occasional person caught trying to smuggle more out of the brewery. One day there was a terrible crash in the yard. A woman had slipped on the metal weighbridge and dropped all of the bottles of beer she'd had hidden up her skirt. It was quite funny at the time, but in the end she got her books."
Scottish Brewing Archive Journal volume 4, 2002, page 8.

This must have been draught beer, as it was being filled into containers. Reading carefully, it sounds as if you could fill up a jug to drink while at work, have a couple of pints with your lunch, then fill another jug or whatever to take home at the end of the day.

Not being of the female persuasion, I've no idea how many bottles you could fit up a skirt. How had she secured them inside? Like much about women, it's all a mystery to me.

Arthur Cramb, another former Aitken employee, also remembers free beer:

"Brewery workers were allowed to have a drink before and after work. They went to a room set aside for this. Staff were allowed two dozen beer each month, which was delivered to your house."
Scottish Brewing Archive Journal volume 4, 2002, page 18.
The word "staff" is being used in a very specific sense here. It means salaried office personnel as opposed to the hourly-paid manual workers. They'd have been given bottled beer because they wouldn't have gone to the Murly with the manual workers.

The Murly sounds much like what I experienced at Hole's. We had our breaks in a bare cellar. A keg of AK and another of Mild in one corner. I used to eat in there. On reflection, it may not have been the most hygienic environment. None of the office or managerial staff were ever to be seen there.

We weren't allowed to stock up on beer to sip while actually working. But there was a way around that. Some of my colleagues would rinse out the plastic cups from the tea machine and fill them from the keg filler. A bit messy, but it worked.

Max Cowan recalls the final party at Aitken:

"When I arrived at the Brewery on its last official working day, I found my father reasonable quickly, but not in the bottling hall. If I remember correctly, he was in the shed where the casks were stored. He asked me if I wanted a drink and look me into a corner where a firkin was set up with what I think was Aitken's Heavy. It quickly became clear to me that everybody had been drinking for most of the day. The other thing that struck me was that there did not seem to be any of the white collar staff around, perhaps that was intentional. After a few pints we went to the Brewer's Room in the main part of the Brewery where some of the employees had gathered and had a few more drinks. There were no speeches, although there may have been earlier. It was simply a case of workmates saying goodbye to each other. The atmosphere was reminiscent of the fag end of a long Hogmanay. The only other thing that sticks in my mind is that my father and I got a lift home in a rather tatty Aston Martin that one of the former Younger's of Alloa employees owned."
Scottish Brewing Archive Journal volume 4, 2002, page 13.

At least they got to drink their farewells with cask beer. Nice touch that. Given that it sounds like there was plenty of boozing on a normal working day, I'm not surprised they'd been going a bit crazy on the last day. Only natural.

1 comment:

Ed said...

A old boss of mine who worked for Marstons for 35 years said there used to be a bloke who sent about half his working hours doling out the 'allowance ale'. I think the allowance was a couple of pints a day, but you got extra 'heat beer' if you'd dug out the mash tun.