Monday, August 27, 2007

Down the Hatch

The past, they say, is a different country and the contrast between today's binge drinking culture and the Wales of the November 1961 vote on Sunday opening of the pubs surely bears that out.

The vote in favour of opening in Radnorshire came as a surprise to the mainly chapel led opposition to Sunday drinking - the county had been expected to vote against. On a turnout of 55% the 4205 "for" votes won the day with 58% of the ballots cast. Breconshire, too, fell to the pro-drink lobby 53% to 47% with a similar breakdown of the vote but this time in favour of the antis seeing Montgomeryshire continue as a "dry" county for another seven years.

In hindsight the continuing strength of the traditional chapel vote throughout Wales is remarkable. The vote was seen as being about the "Welshness" associated with nineteenth century non-conformity - the cosmopolitan cities of the south showing least interest, while in the Welsh-speaking heartland of Merioneth less than a quarter of the voters supported modernity and the "wets". At the same time it is wrong to think that all those supporting Sunday closing did so for the same reasons. Clubs were in any case unaffected by the ban and no doubt some of their members feared the loss of revenue which would result from the pubs being allowed to compete. Another group against Sunday opening, although they had to be careful not to do so openly, were those tenant landlords and their families who resented the fact that they were to lose their only day of rest during the week.

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