Back in the 1970’s, kids did not go into pubs. They were not for kids. Many were not even for women. Unlike today’s modern restauro-pubs, there were no soft play areas, colour-in menus and sweaty teenagers in furry mascot costumes. Pubs, and particularly northern pubs, were where men went to get away from their wives and children and talk about football, pigeons and darts. They were generally stark, cheerless places, filled with chain-smoking old men holding huge, dimpled pint pots with handles and speaking in some strange language, which I later discovered was just a broad Yorkshire accent affected by booze!
On the bar and on tables throughout were small printed cardboard mats on which drinks must placed when set down (not using one of the many mats scattered around usually solicited a stern reprimand from the indomitable landlady or a sharp tongued barmaid.) Men being what they are, some took an interest in these little slices of brewery ephemera and in time, the practice of collecting beermats gained an official name: tegestology.
I recently rediscovered my Dads collection of beermats. I knew he collected them; I remember him bringing home new ones every time the pub got a new set, or if he went somewhere and found one he hadn’t seen before. They all made their way into a large box footstool and I have fond memories of of looking through them, sorting them and generally wondering about all these strange and exotic drinks that sophisticated adults were enjoying in the mysterious world of ‘the pub.’
I don’t recall what happened to his collection. It simply faded from memory and was never a topic of discussion. Last week, I retrieved the xmas decorations from my mums attic space and found this large box stuffed with his beer mats! Even Mum didn’t remember them being up there!
I reckon that there are about 1500 -2000 mats in this box. An initial scan allowed me to begin categorising: beers, lagers, ciders, stouts, spirits, mixers and tobacco amongst others. Having done a little snooping around on the web I would guess that each of the beer and lager categories could be subdivided further – as I said before, men being what they are!
My dad liked the unusual or funny ones the best. When I say funny, I want to remind you that this was 1970’s Northern England – not the apex of sophisticated humour!
There were also quite a few odd ones that seemed to defy categorising and possibly logic!
But for now I will leave you with this one, and ask that you raise your glass to an original ‘Man of the North’ and the rediscovery of his beermat collection…
I am looking forward to further investigation of the collection and am sure to share my findings with you!