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A Happy New Year at Wednesbury

By Black Country Bugle User  |  Posted: January 02, 2003

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So, it’s the morning after, you’ve got smashed on spirits or blotto on beer. If only you knew how to cure a hangover. You see alcohol causes dehydration, dehydration shrinks brain cells and now you feel headachey and irritable.

Alcohol also reduces sugar levels and this makes you feel shaky and confused. I should say serves you right, but why should I be a killjoy. They may be old wives remedies, less than scientific, however the old ways are the best and appear to work. “The Hair of the Dog”; a pint of Guinness and blackcurrant juice, it goes down a treat, because it has sugar in it, that will soon tackle the bad head. “A Full English Breakfast”; although it’s difficult to face, with an added black coffee it will help to replenish the salts washed away the previous night.

These homemade cures make sense, but if you’re not convinced, try the old Alka Seltzer. Can you remember the advert, “plop, plop. fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is”. That was real fighting talk against several pints of beer or a bottle of whisky drunk at a New Year knees up!

This New Year greetings card, "Please say when!", was sent to Fred Burton of Stafford Street, Wednesbury. Was it to remind him of the wild times in the town and tactfully suggesting that perhaps it may be a good time to make a New Year's resolution. Had his life style got out of hand, was he teetering on the brink of constant inebriation? Or was he a teetotaller and this was just a joke?

The public houses in Wednesbury had always been the main source of entertainment, and drunkenness had always been a problem. This was witnessed by the historian E.H. Horne in 1843. “Went into the Green Dragon; conversation with the landlord, Mr Joshua Thompson, went into the tap-room; saw a collier dancing; nobody else in the room except a boy, and a blind fiddler who was engaged by the collier to play as long as he danced. He had placed a large jug of ale beside his fiddler. Had been dancing long before I arrived. People now came in, and stood in a circle round the dancing man. ‘Ah!’ said a market butcher, ‘he has no fear of returned bills upon his mind’. Left the tap-room and went to call upon the Rev. Isaac Clarkson, Returned in an hour; same collier still dancing; he had drunk four quarts of strong ale during his prolonged performance; he was not very drunk, except when he left off dancing. He danced much better than he could walk; treated everybody to ale, but could not stand in one place to pour it out, but danced pouring out, sometimes in the jug, and on the floor in the intervals. The floor was all kicked up in the centre; planks all ragged and torn by the hob-nailed shoes of these dancers. Landlord told me there were scores of them in almost every room on Saturday and Monday nights. Should be obliged to lay down a new floor soon. He said to the collier, during one of his drinking pauses, ‘If you don’t leave off you’ll go through the floor into the cellar’”.

“Ah, master!” said the collier, “that is just where I should like to be”. He resumed his dance; left him as I found him.

Though Saturday and Monday are the regular days for dancing and drinking, any other day is appropriated to the same by those who, during any particular week, can afford it”.

Beer was a man's drink and the tavern a man's world. During 1889 many Wednesbury and Darlaston men were only scraping a living, drinking was their only pleasure which resulted in the towns having their first drug problem. “Tis a growing vice”, it was said. Rampaging along the streets, falling senseless in the gutters or sprawled across pub tables was a common sight.

This case appeared in the Wednesbury Herald, “At Wednesbury Police Court. A Darlaston Landlady Heavily Fined” - Emma Nixon, King’s Arms Inn, Cramp Hill was charged with permitting drunkenness on her licensed premises, three men named John Taylor, Joseph Newman and Philemon Gee were charged with being drunk. Gee was charged with refusing to quit - the evidence of Police-sergeant Williams and Police Constable Horne was, that they found the three men in the house at a quarter past three o’clock, all drunk. The landlady told the sergeant that the men would not go. Their defence was that they had only been in the house for a few minutes and had not taken a drink there. Mrs Nixon was fined £5 and costs. The charge by her against Gee was dismissed, but on the charge preferred by the police he was fined 10/- and costs or fourteen days imprisonment. Taylor was fined 10/- and costs, or fourteen days and Newman 2/6d and costs or seven days imprisonment.

Are you feeling a bit better now, well here is some good news. Beer and wine came packed with antioxidants. Alcohol in moderation is said to be of cardiavascular benefit. I said, “Moderation”. So, remember a little is good, sadly a lot is not. If you must visit the bar more than twice eat a bowl of cereals with milk before you start to binge, it will help line your stomach. Have a Happy and Healthy New Year!Have a Happy and Healthy New Year!

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