On Saturday 8 March 1975, a 16-year-old boy wrote an autobiographical note on a piece of thin chipboard and concealed it in the skittle alley at The Lord Nelson pub in Barton Hill, Bristol.
Gary Wait wrote this on 8.3.1975
I am 16, I am pretty tall, I have blue eyes and dark blonde hair. I came down here, the Lord Nelson, 3 times a week to stick up. I had 1 pound a night. I wrote this so some day I might find it and read it. I am doing this job so I can pay off some money I owe on my moped, I got £117 to pay. My favourite uncle is Tony Wait he’s the one who helped me when I was in trouble with my bike. I am going to hide this so if I find this is will bring back some happy times.
We’ve written about sticking up before but for those who don’t know about West Country skittles, here’s a recap: when two pub teams get together to play, they pay local lads to sit in a sort of cubby hole at the far end of the skittle alley and pop out to stand up the pins between turns.
Unfortunately, The Lord Nelson has been closed for some years and is in the process of being turned into flats – hence our desire to see the nearby Rhubarb Tavern survive.
The process of refurbishment and partial demolition is how we know about Gary’s note. Workers in the process of taking apart the skittle alley found it and it was shared on local Facebook groups – did anyone know Gary?
After a day or so, Gary’s sister, Julie Tucker, came forward with bad news:
We try to resist being sentimental about the closure and demolition pubs, partly because it happens so often you’d need constant therapy to cope if you let it get to you.
But it’s hard not to feel this story.
How many people have lived and worked in this pub since it was built in the 19th century? How many boys sat at the end of the skittle alley over the course of decades?
Cellars, cupboards, attics, floor cavities, hollow walls… It’s terrible to think of how often stuff like this has ended up in skips, or pulverised with sledgehammers.