The Session #82: Beery Yarns

The SessionThis month’s Session is hosted by Beer’s I’ve Known who has chosen what promises to be a great topic for these long winter nights – Beery Yarns:

I want to hear your beery tall tales, yarns, recollections (in a Grandpa Simpson stylee) or otherwise, delivered in the manner that befits sitting around a log fire, favourite beer in hand. Only proviso is that it has to involve beer in some way.

For my contribution I’ve also collected together a few random tales I’ve read that could loosely be considered beery yarns, at least they all involve pubs.

A Noted Liar

I’m hoping there’ll be some contributions along the lines of the World’s Biggest Liar Competition that’s still held in Cumbria each year at the Bridge Inn, Santon Bridge. Story-telling competitions occured in pubs here in Cambridge too:

“One of the ways in which people have always found pleasant relaxation at the end of a day’s work is in either listening to or narrating good stories over a glass of ale.

As the evening progressed the tales tended to become more exaggerated and improbable, and many elderely Cambridgeshire people have recalled that it was customary to reward the narrators with some token of their listeners’ appreciation. The award usually took the form of free beer, but there were other prizes – a ‘silver’ cup, crudely made of thin tin and suitably inscribed; a ribbon rosette or a medal. These were usually kept in the public house and solemnly handed to the teller of the story which was judged to be the ‘tallest’ of the evening.

In 1964 a blacksmith-made iron ‘medal’ bearing the words ‘The Noted Liar’ was found in the garden of the Pike and Eel at Chesterton. This inn was a popular meeting-place not only of local people, but also of the watermen who used to work on the barges and lighters which carried goods between King’s Lynn and Cambridge. It is very probable that this medal was pinned to the coat of many a good story-teller” (Cambridgeshire Customs and Folklore, Enid Porter, 1969)

Unfortunately that particular riverside pub closed a few years ago and faces demolition to be replaced by flats, bringing to an end that story.

Noted Liar

‘The Noted Liar’ – Medal for a Story Teller, from Cambridgeshire Customs and Folklore, Enid Porter

Ram Jam Inn

The tales behind pub names and inn signs are often good for a yarn. I particularly like the story behind the Ram Jam Inn, Rutland:

“Legend has it that the inn got its name in the days of the long distance stage coaches. On one occasion a coach traveller, some say a highwayman, stayed there for some days and ran up a considerable bill. The evening before he planned to leave without paying his bill, he took the landlord’s wife to one side. With the air of someone bestowing a great favour, he informed her of a method of drawing two different kinds of beer from the same barrel… He had little trouble in persauding the woman of the house to accompany him into the cellar. He made a hole in one side of a full barrel and then told her to ‘ram’ her thumb in it before too much beer was lost. Having made a hole on the other side of the barrel he then persauded the gullible alewife to ‘jam’ her other thumb into this hole as well. She was left, arms and hands immobilised, while he told her that he would look for some bungs for the holes. He then decamped leaving her to ruminate at her leisure over his practical joke and the unpaid bills that he left behind” (Rutland & Stamford Curiosities, David Brandon, 2004)

Ram Jam Inn

From The English Inn, John Burke

One for the road

Norfolk is a good place for beery tales. My favourite is recorded on www.norfolkpubs.co.uk regarding the now closed Castle Inn in Wroxham:

“It is said that at a drinking competition held in Wroxham in 1810, one contestant drank 44½ pints of porter in 55 minutes. His opponent defeated him by supping 52½ pints in the same time. The winner then took 2 more pints to his rowing boat, to assist the 6 mile river journey home.”

Horseplay

The village of Potter Heigham seems to have had a couple of horses with very different attitudes to drinking. At the long since demolished Railway Tavern:

“One regular customer always gave his horse a pint of beer when he stopped to partake of refreshment for himself. It would seem that they were a well-matched pair, equally addicted to the god Bacchus, for the horse would stop and refuse to move on until he had had his tipple.” (Potter Heigham, Olga Sinclair, 1989)

While at the nearby Falgate Inn:

“One of the regular customers came in on his way home to lunch, leaving his horse standing outside. He met an old friend and his usual one pint went to two or three, at which point the horse decided he had been long enough and came right into the bar to fetch his master!”

Overheard

A tale I overheard in a Norfolk pub this year really cracked me up. In the White Horse, Neatishead, two locals were discussing a recent holiday one had:

Man 1: “We went to Cornwall to that village where they filmed Doc Martin, you know, Port Isaac. Well we were surprised – it’s not nearly as big as it looks on the television”

Man 2: “Yeah, but you have got a big telly”

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