The demon rum has claimed many victims over the years and the rather pathetic parade of topers published by Ancestry.co.uk (March 2010) is typical of the breed.
The Birmingham Pub Blacklist
The genealogy search company has posted a “Birmingham Pub Blacklist, detailing the drunkards whose loutish behaviour saw them barred from the city’s pubs and clubs at the turn of the last century.”
The list of miscreants was drawn up by the Birmingham Watch Committee, which was made up of magistrates, councillors, and other worthies whose function was to administer laws governing the sale of alcohol. The list was then circulated to pub landlords who were required by law not to sell booze to those on it.
Bid to Control Public Drunkenness
Similar do-not-serve lists were drawn up in other cities and were handed out to breweries for circulation among pubs.
Ancestry.co.uk’s International Content Director Dan Jones comments: “Although it is a small collection, the Black List paints a fascinating picture of some of Birmingham’s most debauched characters from the turn of the last century…
“The detail in these records is incredible, featuring photographs as well as physical descriptions meaning [people]…can uncover compelling information about forgotten members of society who were down on their luck or perhaps spending their good fortune in unwise ways.”
Working People with a Drinking Problem
On March 27, 2010, The Daily Mail ran a story about the blacklisted alcoholics and printed many of their police mug shots. A sorry looking lot they are although, in fairness, few people look at their best in a police photo.
There’s James Doyle in a tall bowler hat and shabby overcoat; he sports a unkempt moustache much in need of a trim and an extremely crossed right eye. He is described as being 39 years old, but looks a good deal older, and his livelihood is given as a bricklayer’s labourer.
Eliza Fallon is said to be 38 years old and her occupation is given as “woodchopper and prostitute,” although, without being disrespectful to the lady, the customers for the last-mentioned profession must have been few and far between and heavily under the influence.
Eliza’s face tells the history of a life lived hard with scars on the left side of her nose and the right side of her neck. Small bags under the eyes and deep clefts from the nostrils to the corners of the mouth speak of harrowing living conditions and the ravages of poverty.
The Law Deals with Drunkards
Under pressure from the temperance movement, the British Parliament passed the Inebriates Act in 1898 in a bid to deal with the folks turning up on black lists.
In writing about the life of novelist Jean Rhys, who was an alcoholic, Jane Nardin, (Papers on Language and Literature, Winter 2006) says that people convicted of at least four offences “could be committed to inebriate reformatories for terms as long as three years…”
“The act denied due process to these ‘habitual drunkards’ on the grounds that, like lunatics, they were incapable of managing their own affairs, even if they had been guilty of nothing worse than disorderly conduct.”
According to Nardin, middle class drunks were dealt with far less harshly.
Modern Echo of Black List
Binge drinking and public drunkenness has become an issue of serious concern in the Britain. Professor Barry Carpenter is the country’s national director for educational special needs, and he told a July 2010 meeting that heavy drinking among pregnant women is causing a huge spike in the incidence of learning disabilities.
Carpenter is quoted in The Daily Mail (July 9, 2010) as saying, “In the U.K. we have the highest binge drinking levels in the world.”
None of this will come as news to Inspector John Turner, Liskeard and Looe Police Force in Cornwall, England. In December 2007, Turner told The Morning Advertiser (a trade journal for public house landlords) that “he would press his officers to make applications to magistrates to consider declaring offenders who abuse drink to be declared as a ‘habitual drunkard’ under the 1898 Inebriates Act.”
The police officer said he didn’t want to be a killjoy but he needed the tough provisions of the act to fight drunkenness and anti-social behaviour.
- “Binge Britain 1904: The Rogues’ Gallery that Shows War on Booze is nothing New.” The Daily Mail, March 27, 2010.
- “ ‘As Soon As I Sober Up I Start Again’: Alcohol and the Will in Jean Rhys’s Pre-War Novels.” Jane Nardin, Papers on Language and Literature, Winter 2006.
- “Health Expert Says that Binge Drinking During Pregnancy is ‘Child Abuse by Umbilical Cord.’ ” Fiona Macrae, The Daily Mail, July 9, 2010.
- “Cornish Police to Enforce 1898 Inebriates Act.” Joe Lutrario, The Morning Advertiser, December 20, 2007.