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WRITER, CONSULTANT AND BROADCASTER SPECIALISING IN BEER, PUBS AND CIDER. BEER WRITER OF THE YEAR 2009 AND 2012

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Monday, 9 February 2009

Pub Fact - or Fiction? The first in an occasional series

Thought it might be a nice idea to share a query with you I had from a Canadian reader.

Voytek writes:

"My wife thinks that it used to be customary for some pubs to play "God save the queen" at closing time, sort of a tradition for the last call. Have you heard anything about it? Is it still practiced or maybe we're talking about something from the past?" 


Have to say I've never heard of it, and thinking about how recently recorded music has become a feature of pubs, I can't see it being a tradition unless it was the landlord singing or someone playing it on the piano.  Can anyone prove me wrong?

That got me thinking - anyone know any other quirky old pub rituals, last orders and time-calling eccentricities?  The pub is losing a little of its individuality thanks to transitory bar staff who see it as just a job and often seem to expect you to know when last orders and time is called by nothing other than telepathy.  It would be great to capture a few stories...

14 comments:

BLTP said...

Not sure about the anthem they did use to play it at the pictures forcing people to hurry out rather than stadn to attention while the dreery dirge played out and of course at the end of telly on a night.
The French House in Soho pointedly only sells beer in halfs.
and there's that pub in docks that's got several decades of hot cross buns nailed to the wall

Jeff Pickthall said...

The Prince of Wales in Clapham used to play The Deadwood Stage (Whip Crack Away) from Calamity Jane.

Why? No idea.

Rudolph said...

It's not a UK establishment but a bar called, De Garre, in Bruges has always called closing by playing a 20 minute version of Ravels Bolero. You hear it in the background subtly to start with but by the crescendo you are expected to have finished your beverage and go home!! It works and I want to try this at a beer festival one day. Small place but has quite a decent beer list.

Rudolph said...

It's not a UK establishment but a bar called, De Garre, in Bruges has always called closing by playing a 20 minute version of Ravels Bolero. You hear it in the background subtly to start with but by the crescendo you are expected to have finished your beverage and go home!! It works and I want to try this at a beer festival one day. Small place but has quite a decent beer list.

Sid Boggle said...

Every Thursday night after footy training and beers in our staff bar, me and some mates used to go to The Pilgrim just before last orders, there we would drop our keks and do a chorus line of 'New York, New York' before sinking a quick one before the bell...

Is your Canadian correspondent getting confused with the olden days of telly, when it used to close down for the night and the Beeb would play 'The Queen'?

zythophile said...

Sid, you're showing your youth. They really did used to play God Save The Queen at the end of cinema performances, and everybody was expected to stand. Personally, as a republican, I always continued sitting ...

ATJ said...

They used to play GSTQ at the end of Saturday morning pictures and various battalions of town rowdies would stand arms outstretched flicking Vs at the screen while the rest of us slunk away.

Ed said...

I've been in an Irish pub in North London where they played the Irish national anthem at closing time.

ianmarchant said...

Are you sure it wasn't the Lichtenstein National Anthem they used to play?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8X7r2fZz_BI&feature=related

The Beer Justice said...

There is the Roebuck in Hampton where it is reputed to have an old traffic light that goes amber at last orders and red at time.

Jeffrey said...

"seem to expect you to know when last orders and time is called by nothing other than telepathy"

you could look at your watch, you know...

Pete said...

Spot the pub landlord!

Jeffrey, I know where you're coming from - my point is that since licensing law reform, especially in the middle of a city you don't always know whether the pub is shutting at 11pm or later, and pubs have different times on different days. So often you can be sitting there for an hour, everyone seems fairly relaxed, and you go up to the bar at eleven for another round and they tell you it's closed.

Apart from that the whole ritual of "time please" and ringing the bell and gently abusing your customers from the bar for not moving quickly enough is part of the pub's unique character. When this is replaced by someone simply putting the lights on full beam and pointedly starting to put chairs on tables right next to you my reaction is always, "Oh. I guess you're trying to get me to fuck off then." Not very friendly for an institution that's all about conviviality?

When I've been in your pub I've either left before closing time or been too drunk to remember it, so not sure what your particular style is!

Rudgie73 said...

Now this takes me back to my first job as a glass collector at the Royal British Legion. At the end of the Country and Western night (we had real cowboys shooting cap guns in the air after every song - life was rough in Warrington!) after the bingo and the disco "God Save the Queen" was in fact played to signal the end of the evening and meant I could go and collect the empties (and empty the ashtrays - remember that?). I am pretty certain this would have been repeated in RBL function rooms up and down the land.

Ten Inch Wheeler said...

I suspect Voytek's original question might stem from WW2 - if there ever was a period when the National Anthem was played in pubs, that was it. It might have come about from Canadians hearing it at closing time in say, a pub next to their Lincolnshire bomber base.


I'm pretty sure the Legion at Appledore played GSTQ when were were in on New Years Eve a couple of years back.