Beer history

Definite Scope: Dodgy Draymen, mid-1960s

Old advertisement: men loading a dray with casks.
An ad from the wrong time period (1929) and wrong city. So sue us.

On our travels round the country over the last few months we’ve been seeking out small press local history publications like Mike Axworthy’s A Garston Working Life (2012), which we found at Liverpool Central Library.

As well as being a keen frequenter of pubs Mr Axworthy also worked as a drayman (beer deliveries) when he was a teenager in the mid-1960s, and gives us this glimpse behind the scenes:

I soon learned why our wages were so poorly paid, because the company knew we made them up on the fiddle. I am ashamed to say that no one was safe, the company were robbed in many ingenious ways, like putting extra crates on when the checker wasn’t looking. These we would sell cheap to barmen at a low cost cash price. Then often we would walk out of the bar with some of their stock in empty boxes, or with bottles of spirits up our shirt. We justified this thieving by our low wages, but really it was just greed…

I was definitely not guilty when a big robbery took place in the warehouse. Inside ‘Kings of the Bottlers’ warehouse there was a strong room that contained the spirits… [It] had a steel door and a 2ft thick brick wall. One morning we came in and a hole had been knocked through the wall and most of the spirits spirited away. No one was ever caught for the theft but we all had an idea who it was but grassing was definitely out in our culture.

Presumably this kind of thing doesn’t happen today, or is very rare, what with electronic stock control and CCTV and so on… or maybe we’re being naive?

We’re posting this in response to something on the same topic that appeared on, and then disappeared from, Ron Pattinson’s blog. When it turns up again we’ll add a direct link. UPDATE 29/5/2016: And here it is.

PS. There was no blog post yesterday but we did update this 2014 post on The Britannia Inn at the 1958 Brussels Expo with new information and pictures.

4 replies on “Definite Scope: Dodgy Draymen, mid-1960s”

I’d wonder if a significant proportion of the dodginess on the beer side has shifted along to (a small minority of) microbreweries. Perhaps enough so as to supply the demand from publicans who’re ambivalent about things like correct paperwork in the face of “a good deal”.

Even in tied pubs. I’ve known one case at least of a Punch pub regularly getting the odd off-the-record cask as a kickback for buying a brewery’s beer from the SIBA DDS list. Whether or not a bit more dosh changes hands, or the beer is duty paid… or VAT charged… who knows…

We hope AWRS will put an end to at least some of this. (Without putting an end to us.)

As you say – in these days of stock control, CCTV, and the likes, nicking beer from the dray/warehouse/pub is probably a bit harder. (I’ve seen at least one cellar with CCTV in it, but that’s rare.) But little to stop the odd “broken in transit” case of bottles/etc… unlikely to happen at high scale of volumes mind.

Spirits is another kettle of fish. But I think dodgy publicans are mostly happy enough funnelling cheap supermarket equivalents into upmarket bottles.

Yeah I had the DDS deal explained to me a few years ago, funnily enough by a Liverpool landlady! I asked how she could make a living out of the pricey SIBA beer (after the pubco added about 50% on top of the discounted(!) price the brewery charged them)…she explained that breweries would deliver extra beer, for free, with no invoice…so I assumed no VAT & no duty was going to be paid on that part of the transaction).

The continuing cask ale race to the bottom in terms of price suggests this tax evasion is relatively common in the trade (& not just DDS)

It may be artistic license, but it appears the truck had metal wheels without rubber tires. If this is a true representation of the vehicle, I would have to assume it is due to the weight of the beer.

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