Sunday, 22 April 2018

"Away, away with rum by gum,"* signing the pledge to forgo the demon drink

The temperance movement and in particular The Band of Hope haven’t always got good press.  

More often than not the campaign against “demon drink” is the butt of jokes and its adherents seen as dour kill joys.

And yet nothing could be further from the truth.  There was passion, humour and above all a real sense of commitment to addressing a social problem which plunged individuals and families in to distress and poverty.

Many employers still paid out in pubs with all the intend ant dangers of drinking the family money away and pubs were designed to be warm welcoming places which were often more pleasant places than the home.

And it was not till not till 1901 that was it made illegal to sell alcohol to children under the age of 14 and even then it did not apply if the container was in a corked or sealed container.

Earlier in the century according to Annemarie McAllister in “The lives and souls of the children”: The Band of Hope in the North West** “A select committee reported that in public houses in Manchester ‘on a single Sunday in 1854 there were 212,243 visits to drink shops and 22,132 of these were made by children, some of whom went to drink on their own account – some to fetch drink.’”

It is an interesting account of both the temperance movement and the degree to which children were encouraged to become part of that movement and remain lifetime abstainers.

Temperance was an important part of many of those working class organisations which developed in the 19th century to improve working conditions and generally advance the cause of Labour. "Temperance men and women " could be found in the trade unions, and in the co-operative movement, and there was even a temperance wing of the Chartists.

Much was made of the links between the the big brewers and the Conservative Party and abstinence was at the center of some of the religious groups.  All of whom saw alcohol as  dangerous to health, a source of family poverty and  a bar to social advance.  Some like the Cross Cross Mission Emigration Society which sought to assist working class families settle in Canada were totally convinced that a life without "drink" was a powerful weapon in families bettering themselves.

It extended into every community and even here there were those who fought applications for new pubs and supported such temperance halls like our own on Manchester Road.

Something of all this comes through from a new exhibition at the Pump House Museum*** Demon Drink? Temperance and the Working Class, which runs till February 24th 2013. “The Temperance Movement, in which people took the pledge not to drink alcohol, effectively began in the North West and played an important part in the lives of many in the region. Despite this, it is a little remembered aspect of our history.”

* Salvation Army Song, it has other titles, the author and composer is unknown, and the  verses grow with time,

** The Band of Hope in the North West, in Growing Up in the North West, 1850s-1950s, Manchester Region History Review Volume 22 2011

*** People’s History Museum Left Bank, Manchester,

Pictures; Band Of Hope, Open air Temperance Meeting in Manchester, 1910, m68996, Temperance Demonstration, m18044, Temperance Billiard Hall, Chorlton, November 1958,  A.H. Downes, m18044, Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council


  1. The Temperance billiard hall Chorlton has a black & white photo on the wall of George Best playing snooker circa 1970. Was it taken there?

  2. Well he did live at Aycliffe Avenue so might have done, not sure of the dates