A FRENCHMAN once said of our nation that ‘when you have lost your Inns drown your empty selves, for you will have lost the last of England’.
He may well be right and that time maybe sooner than we think.
Having just returned from the Emerald Isle where the proper pub is still thriving at the heart of every community, it is painful to see what our drinking holes have been reduced to.
Wigan is not alone in seeing its great boozers perish as uniform chain pubs take over and cut us down to soulless pits full of non-descript people.
In Wigan alone, classic ale houses like the Dog &Partridge, the Park Hotel and Alexandra to name a few have all called time.
However, a trip across the Irish Sea will show you that this doesn’t have to be the case.
One reason Dublin and the rest of Ireland’s pubs thrive is the esteem in which they are held. You’ll find no Wetherspoons or Lloyds pubs there.
Instead every pub is a free-house and barmen are still seen as a revered profession and characters still frequent them, all with craic and tales to tell.
Last week me and about 20 lads piled into a pub on the outskirts of a housing estate in Dublin. The lone barman did not react with horror as they would in the same situation in England. Instead, his eyes lit up at the prospect of some company and profits he would never have made any other weekday afternoon.
We stayed for a good four hours drinking Guinness while he had a laugh, told jokes and even performed the odd card trick. I ask you where would 20 lads be welcomed as such in this neck of the woods?
The point is that the British pub used to be revered and but for the odd few, they are a rapidly dying breed and we will all be the poorer for their demise.
It’s difficult to see how things will turn around but it is beyond doubt that the chain pubs we all drink in are only in it for our money and not to provide us with what we need - pubs with heart, soul and characters.
For those interested the Frenchman was Hilaire Belloc.