Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Five Gallons of Ale Sucked through a gas pipe

This is a novel way of stealing beer - by sucking it through a pipe. It's quite clever, in a way. Though getting caught isn't quite so smart.

"Five Gallons of Ale Sucked through a gas pipe.
—On Saturday forenoon a man named John McKenna appeared before Sheriff Arkley on a charge of stealing five gallons of ale from the brewery of Messrs. Drybrough and Company, Canongate. On the afternoon of Thursday last McKenna, along with three companions, was at the foot of Logan's Close, immediately adjoining the brewery, one of the windows of which was open, and a barrel of ale close beside it. The temptation proved too strong to be resisted ; and accordingly a piece of lead gas-pipe was introduced through the window and into the bung-hole of the barrel, the four vagabonds each in turn taking a pretty long suck. Some boys observed their movements, but the abstraction of the ale went on for some hours ere the boys thought of informing the police. They ultimately did so, however, but the thieves observed the police coming up the close, and three of them managed to make their escape, leaving McKenna, who was considerably more than half-seas-over, to the tender mercies of the law. The ale in the cask was afterwards measured, and it was found that the four had managed to extract five gallons. McKenna pleaded guilty to the charge, and was sentenced to thirty days' imprisonment. — Edinburgh Courant."
Hertford Mercury and Reformer - Saturday 02 May 1863, page 3.

Interesting approach to sentencing in the old days. A cooper who hit his foreman so hard that he blinded him in one eye only got 8 months. Which makes a month inside for stealing 5 gallons of beer - probably worth around 5 shillings worth - seem pretty harsh.

I'm not surprised McKenna was pissed. Five gallons amongst just people means they averaged more than a gallon each. At a time when even weak beer was 5 to 6% ABV.


The Beer Nut said...

I'm glad we have TV and video games and the like nowadays, so there aren't gangs of boys just hanging around, waiting to snitch on their elders.

Ron Pattinson said...

Beer Nut, exactly. Though it doess seem that only the weakest of the group got caught so maybe it's natural selection at work.

Gary Gillman said...

I wonder if someone in the building facilitated this. How do you insert a pipe into a sealed cask at a distance? I suppose it could be hammered in, but the hammering would be hard to achieve with a pipe a yard long or more. I'd think there was collusion indoors.

At one time in the U.K., it was a kind of stock convention of literature that industrious youth would note improper activities and inform the authorities. I recall one "boy's book" I read when I was actually that age, where a boy had a practice of noting auto registration numbers (the license number) in a book. He did it just for amusement, but it came in handy once so police could nab a car absconding from a robbery. This little story reminded me that one I read about 50 years ago...

The current practice of "ticking", more relevant in a beer context, might be regarded as the same thing, but not really. :)

Today as BN reminds us, observation is restricted to a screen of some kind within close view, to the public's loss perhaps.


Rob said...

I have to assume their would be some (lots actually) leaking and spilling, so I doubt they got 1 gallon each.