Saturday, 10 November 2012

The Englishman's Beer

An obsession with pubs was a notable feature of temperance fascists in the 19th century. Of course, the fact working-class drinking occurred overwhelmingly in pubs was the main reason.

It was class factors that probably gave the teetotallers some degree of success in reducing the number of pubs and their opening hours. As this article explains:

"The Englishman's Beer.
The Sunday Closing Bill which was defeated in the House of Commons yesterday did not appeal to Scottish observers as a very extreme measure.

It was not Sunday Closing Bill the sense that it made the public-house week one of six days, as in Scotland. Its main proposal was to reduce the hours of opening Sundays to three throughout the provinces and four in the Metropolitan district. The hours were to be fixed by the local Justices, but were to be between noon and 10 p.m.

The professed aim of the, promoters was secure the more orderly observance of the Sabbath, an object at which one will cavil. Were the Englishman as docile as the Scot, and willing to have his liberties swept away at the bidding of any body of faddists which happened to get the ear of a political group, the way of Sunday closing would be easy.

Yesterday's vote showed that it is not easy and for yet another reason. Temperance reform is one of the purest forms of class legislation. The working man hit by it, but while it increases his disabilities and curtails his liberties, it has no such effect on those chiefly responsible for its introduction. The M.P. has his cellar, his club, or hotel; he is immune from all legislative changes. It is not surprising that his philanthropic interest in the working man should excite suspicion.

Conditions in Scotland are not the same as England, but it holds good of both countries that drinking clubs increase as public-houses diminish. The clubs have increased in England at a very rapid rate recent years, and the restriction of public-house hours is the surest way of accelerating the increase."
Dundee Courier - Saturday 09 May 1914, page 4.

The better off, who either ordered their booze directly from a wine merchant for drinking at home, or who pissed it up down their gentleman's club were affected by the rules on pubs. So what the hell did they care?

The victory of English Sunday drinkers was short-lived. Because WW I gave temperance killjoys the perfect excuse to hack away at pub opening times. DORA - the 1915 Defence of the Realm Act - eventually left pubs open just 5.5 hours a day. Sunday had the greatest restrictions, with just a couple of hours at lunchtime and another couple in the early evening. It was a situation that lasted well into my drinking life.

How I hated Sundays with the frustrating frantic sprint at lunchtime followed by a long, dark afternoon waiting for the evening to roll around. The joys of now being able to laze away a slow afternoon in the boozer. Don't let the bastards take that pleasure away from you again.

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