Friday, 29 May 2015

Fur coats and fighting cocks

Fur coats were mentioned in the comments in my last post.  That's an issue for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), major campaigners against the killing of animals for their fur. Sounds like a worthwhile cause to me and one I believe in, but as an animal welfare supporter I must say I don't think PETA have done themselves any favours in general with a recent story that's made the news.  Have you read about Ye Olde Fighting Cocks?  If not... it's a pub in St Albans, one of several laying claim to being the oldest in England; I've been there a couple times some years ago and seem to remember eating a 'Johnny Appleseed' (cheese and apple) sandwich, sitting at an ancient wooden bench under its low oak beams, all very traditional.  In the 18th century it was, as you'll have guessed, the venue for cock fights.  PETA have now written an open letter to the pub requesting that it changes its name to better reflect modern sensibilities and to encourage an end to the association of chickens with such a cruel sport, and they've suggested the new one should be 'Ye Olde Clever Cocks'.

I'm sure you'll agree that even the most sensitive of animal lovers (of which I am one) can actually cope with the idea that a pub might be named after something so abhorrent without bursting into tears.  You know, like it or not, it's our history.  We can deal with it.  We can't pretend it, and all the other horrors of our pasts, didn't happen, and make the world all fluffy and cuddly, censoring the most tenuous references in order to protect our delicate feelings.  Pub names are part of our heritage, just like the traditional folk songs and fairy tales which form part of our culture and which also tell tales of cruelty and sadness.  Anyway I'm sure most of us would prefer PETA's efforts to be focused on the real, current causes and not to make themselves look silly with stories like this one.

Still, it did get me thinking about pub names in general. Here in my village we have eight pubs.  There are several animal names here - a Bull, a Hare, a Black Lion and a Swan.  (Our own Cock & Bell was also a venue for cock-fights.)  The most unusual name I've come across in the area is the Bees In The Wall near Cambridge.  Most of them are Kings' and Queens' and Saracens' Heads... alongside Carpenters' and Bricklayers' Arms, Robin Hoods and George & Dragons...and all those exotic red, black and white lions.  Although, I've yet to see a gold one!




28 comments:

  1. If people have an issue with fighting cocks then surely another of your examples is a bit more problematic these days, The Saracen's Head.... There was one near where I grew up which had a sign depicting the aforementioned head, severed and held up by a crusader. Not really in the spirit of solving the world's problems these days. Whilst I'm at it there was also a King of the Belgians, which had the sign changed during the Second World War after the incumbent king threw his lot in with the fascists, so another severed head sign that was still there the last time I drove past a few years ago.. Casual racism and pub signs or historical treasures? For what it's worth my favourite pub name is the wonderfully named 'Kevin' which used to be in Market Harborough I think! (And you can't beat a bit of Karen O !)

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    1. Hmm, maybe they should just be more choosy about the pictures? The Saracen's Head I used to know showed him grinning with his body obviously still intact. Thank god we don't see dismembered limbs on all those 'Arms' pubs....
      'Kevin' as a pub name isn't working for me I'm afraid...!

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  2. The University of South Carolina are The Gamecocks. PETA tries it with them every once in a while and are dealt with much less politely than you have done here. The nickname comes from a unit of South Carolina Zouaves who fought Lincoln's invasion...in turn that name comes from the nickname of a South Carolina general in the War of Independence. So...it's not changing.

    Basically our entire culture is an offense to PETA (and many others) but we don't wear fur at least. :) It was 104 in my car yesterday afternoon.

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    1. That's just as silly isn't it...and, given the origins you describe, totally irrelevant. Imagine a pub called the Cottonmouth, though...

      104? You must have our share of heat. It's cold here...only about half that here today.

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  3. I love pub names and hate it when a pub that has been called something lovely and trad. for eons gets a change to something abhorrent like 'The Slug and Lettuce' or 'The Twatish Lawyers' or whatever. PETA are clearly mental and are doing the animal rights movement (for which I have massive sympathy) no good at all. Nutters everywhere.

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    1. Even though I agree with you about new names I must say I'd rather like to see a pub called The Twatish Lawyers... imagine the pic on the sign!

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  4. Scottish pub names are unfortunately less exotic often either reflecting either the area or the landlord's name
    There is a local expression Fur Coats and nae Knickers which is levelled at someone acting posher than they actually are

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    1. As a fan of 'Still Game' I think all Scottish pubs must be called The Clansman!
      I don't know which would be more questionable - fur coat and no knickers, or fur knickers and no coat?

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    2. ...with a bemulleted barman called Bobby sporting a disgusting tea towel permanently draped over his right shoulder!

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    3. That's the one! I think I'll give his microwave pies a miss.

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  5. PETA are definitely not doing themselves any favours here. They should take a good look at themselves and quietly move on to a suitable contemporary cause worthy of their attention.
    Best pub names? We passed a corker a couple of weeks back, but the name escapes me for the moment, I'll get back to you if it comes to me. I've always admired The Case is Altered and The Eel's Foot though.
    You have EIGHT pubs in your village!!!!! I'm not much of a drinking man these days, but with that lot on my doorstep I could be sorely tempted!

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    1. Exactly... just makes everyone think they've lost the plot.
      Yes please get back to me re. the pub name, I'm intrigued. Those are weird ones you mention... do the names have any history or relevance to anything in particular?
      Yep, EIGHT pubs (a couple are mainly restaurants now, though, and it is a big village... still, we're spoilt for choice.)

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  6. Very well put re the lunacy of PETA, and it goes for all the over the top PCers.

    The second closest pub to us is a Golden Lion. It's exterior has just had a repaint - all blue! Despite it being very close I don't frequent it - full of ciderheads, and the live music is usually bottom of the barrel bands playing rock covers very loud. A shame because only a few years ago a blues nut ran it for a bit and they had a very good jukebox.

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    1. Thanks Darcy.
      Ah a blue painted Golden Lion! I can just imagine it from your description... it was your use of the word 'ciderheads'!

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  7. There seems to be a fashionable rebranding of pubs around where I live from the old traditional names to more fashionable and less problematic ones ( maybe reflecting the change from old men and dogs on strings to men with fashionable beards and craft beers) so goodbye Golden Cross, Red Lion ,hello, Better Half, The Urchin etc. I hope they don't rebrand the English Bull Terrier, I love them despite their unfortunate antecedents.
    BTW, fur coats and no knickers, yes someone acting as too posh but also quite an effective introduction!

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    1. Shame about the renaming...all a bit too PC. I suppose, as you suggest, it's all part of a general 'rebranding', but I like to think of pub names as being similar to names of towns, villages and churches, kind of permanently on the map!
      Fur coat and no knickers... unfortunately also a particularly 'effective' introduction if the person wearing it happens to be an eccentric 80-year old bag lady who flashes at librarians... (it happened to my brother-in-law!)

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    2. Who said libraries were boring? ( I love them actually, I really want to spend the weekend at the Gladstone one)

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    3. I had some 'interesting' experiences too when I worked in my local village library... But I agree, they're great places, just they do attract some oddballs! Hope you get your w/e at Gladstone's.

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  8. I'm with you all about PETA being way too PC and taking up idiotic causes. After all, it's not like they have nothing better to do: cases of animal cruelty the world over and they are wasting time and energy on pub names. I also hate this PC whitewashing of all sorts of unsavoury symbols of our history. OK, it's a lot less offensive than Holocaust Deniers but it is still an attempt to distort or gloss over the truth. We are not who we were, and it helps to be reminded of barbaric pastimes/events so our attitudes never lapse back surely?

    There is a pub not far from here on the coast, called The Lletty (just means Hotel, I think) that used to be called The Honest Man (bit worrying that there was just one, back in the day!). It has a 3D plaster disembodied man's head jutting out from the wall near the door. The man looks really freaked out and has a small lamb on his head for some reason (possibly the cause of his distress) and the date 1699 underneath. Local legend has it that the pub was once the meeting place for a gang of smugglers (it reputedly has a tunnel from the cellar leading out to the estuary) and this "Honest Man" dobbed them in to the local militia... if that's true I'm surprised the pub wasn't named "The Traiterous Git". Not sure how the lamb fits in, maybe a symbol of innocence?

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    1. You know, I wondered if PETA did these sort of things just to get in the news and thus spread the word. Unfortunately I think it gives out the wrong message completely and they are more likely to be ridiculed, but it occurred to me that it may be an attempt to get people talking about them in the hope it might lead to other things?
      I love the sound of your Honest Man! A wonderful piece of local legend and the plasterwork sounds great... and I like the idea of a living lamb head-dress, just think how warm it would be.

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  9. I thought, in England a nyway, that in order to change a pub name you had to have planning permission? Yes, England does have some "exotic" pub names, but they always seemed a bit more imaginative, although the Saracens' Head is possibly racist, than Scottish ones. Round here, the names sound nice and exotic, until you learn the translations. Our local is the beehive, there's a blue sea, but there is one that might translate as The Swindler!

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    1. Ooh I didn't know that about planning permission but I can see a point to it... maybe pub names should be Grade II listed... (or maybe they are?)
      Do they charge rip-off prices in The Swindler?!

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    2. Perhaps just as well...

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  10. The Swan with Two Nicks is not far from here, there's a Bear and Ragged Staff I've drunk in, a Bleeding Wolf (now flats).
    Swiss Adam

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    1. All really evocative... and far more interesting than a Crown or a Chequers. I love these animal names.

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  11. My personal favourite pub name is 'The Strugglers Arms' in my hometown of Lincoln. It's just below the castle walls and was the pub where condemned prisoners were dragged for one last pint before being hanged. I went to school just opposite and, at the time, the sign actually showed a pair of smugglers, - Another example of airbrushing history, I suppose.

    I share your general sympathy for PETA's general aims, but you're right about them being mis-guided over this. I hate most of what fur coats stand for, but, for what it's worth, I'd have probably fallen in love with your friend in hers in the blink of an eye. That's exactly how art students looked when I was at college.

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    1. Thanks Hugh, I like that.. the Strugglers Arms.. the history... the smugglers becoming strugglers!

      I grew up with the whole sense of horror at the idea of fur coats and so I never expect to see a real one these days but on my one and only trip to Italy around 8 or 9 years ago I was surprised by the number I noticed being worn by elegant women... It has to be said, they did look stunning - I just wish I could've believed they were fake!

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