Tooled Up Froth Blowers, RALF and the Ring

Not the real RALF logo.
Not the real RALF logo…

When we wrote about the Ancient Order of Froth Blow­ers, we knew they were rel­a­tive­ly well known, but did­n’t know they’d been immor­talised in ani­ma­tion. Our favourite dis­cov­ery, how­ev­er, has been that the AOFB was used as a cov­er by ‘Wild Geese’ mer­ce­nar­ies who turned up to sup­port a 1981 coup in the Sey­chelles wear­ing blaz­ers embroi­dered with the Order’s logo, and with their bags stuffed with guns.

That Froth Blow­ers post also led a chap called Bert to tip us off to the exis­tence of the mil­i­tant Real Ale Lib­er­a­tion Front (RALF), found­ed by pub land­lord and CAMRA mem­ber Nick Win­ning­ton in Wey­mouth in c.1977, with the aim of car­ry­ing out small acts of sab­o­tage against keg beer and the big brew­ers. There was more than one mem­ber, and there were some stick­ers, but that’s all we know. We’ve emailed Nick (with Bob Arnot­t’s help) and await more infor­ma­tion.

Final­ly, our new favourite book(s), Green and White’s Evening Stan­dard Guide to Lon­don Pubs (1973), gives us this:

Anoth­er orga­ni­za­tion con­cerned with pubs and beer is ‘the Ring.’ This is a loose­ly knit group of mature stu­dents of the pub scene. They meet once a month for a deter­mined pub crawl, oblig­ed to vis­it ten or eleven pre-select­ed pubs. Mason­ic rit­u­als pre­vail; you buy drinks in groups of three or four in strict rota­tion; and when the leader has fin­ished his half pint, he shouts ‘Ring out!’, at which you must drain your glass and leave the pub… Men are known col­lec­tive­ly as Hec­tor, and ladies – though not nor­mal­ly accept­ed – as Mor­ag.

Can any­one con­firm the exis­tence of the Ring? Or is this just it’s-a-mad-world jour­nal­is­tic bull­shit?

9 thoughts on “Tooled Up Froth Blowers, RALF and the Ring”

  1. It would­n’t sur­prise me at all. When East­er was com­ing up a folkie of my acquain­tance start­ed going on about “doing the Mob­ber­ley Eight”, as a reg­u­lar (tra­di­tion­al?) cus­tom on East­er Mon­day. I thought it was going to be ring­ing the bells in eight dif­fer­ent church­es or some­thing, but when I asked it turned out to be a pub crawl on bikes. Rules are strict: in the course of the day you vis­it each of eight pubs, scat­tered around Mob­ber­ley (which is pret­ty rur­al), and you drink a pint in each one. Halves, of course, are frowned upon, and the beer absolute­ly has to be real ale. Appar­ent­ly one of the eight pubs has gone keg since they start­ed doing it, so the rule is to take along a bot­tle of some­thing ‘real’ and drink it on a bench out­side. It all sound­ed very Froth­blow­er.

  2. The Ring did exist and is men­tioned in the obit­u­ary of ‘Arry Hart in the Decem­ber 2007 Lon­don Drinker – he was one of the (or the?) organ­is­ers. It is repro­duced at http://camraswl.org.uk/obits.html. I had a lit­tle involve­ment in CAMRA SW Lon­don in the ear­ly 1980s and remem­ber meet­ing ‘Arry – I think he was also a lead­ing light in SPBW Wim­ble­don branch. The author of the obit­u­ary, Chris Cob­bold, was Chair­man of SW Lon­don branch for many years and would be worth con­tact­ing for your research. I haven’t seen him for years but he is on the British Guild of Beer Writ­ers web­site.

  3. The Ring is still going, there’s been well over 600 so far. I’ve been on a cou­ple of them. It’s hard work – 12 halves if you do the lot – but sur­pris­ing­ly good fun, and you get to dis­cov­er good pubs you’d nev­er even have heard of oth­er­wise.

    1. So, who’s in charge? Is there some­one we can email? Did you get called Hec­tor and do the ‘Ring out!’ bit and every­thing?

  4. Is RALF pro­nounced Ralph? As in “to ralph in the toi­let”, or “Raif” as in Ralph Fiennes?

    I’m Amer­i­can so I pro­nounce every­thing nasal‑y.

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