Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Steamboat Days

I remember the days when The Steamboat at Mill Dam was a disreputable sailor's bar. They used to have "lock-ins" (there were strict licensing laws then), when the heavy drape curtains were drawn and "guests" used to drink long and deeply into the night.

My brother was at one such gathering which was so crowded that getting into the rather small toilet became a problem and a queue had formed.

Being unable to wait, he slipped out into the back lane (on the right of the accompanying picture) to relieve himself under the stars but, when he tried to get back in, he found that the latched door had closed behind him.

Disaster! No amount of tapping at the windows or banging on the door drew any response from the riotous company within, who assumed that he was a latecomer trying to horn in.
Finally, spotting an upstairs window slightly open, our hero was shinning up the drainpipe when he felt a tug at his trouserleg and there was a policeman standing below, crooking a finger at him. Despite his protests, he was arrested and banged up in the cells overnight.

Fortunately for him, he was released without charge the next morning when the pub manager came round to explain that he was "a friend of his who had left his coat in the pub".
Actually, I suspect that the police knew very well what had happened (after all, some off-duty policemen occasionally attended the "lock-ins") but they were "firing a shot across the bows" of the pub manager, letting him know that things were going a bit too far. There were no more "lock-ins" at The Steamboat for a while after that.
As for my brother, when he left the sea he spent many years in jail - on the other side of the bars!
He retired recently as a deputy governor of Wormwood Scrubs.

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