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The Ship Inn, Monkseaton, 1970s

The Select Room was “Gentlemen Only” and a tie was de rigueur

I remember many good times in Monkseaton pubs. I became 18 (and thus able to drink legally) in 1974.

The Ship in Monkseaton was my main haunt. When I first started using the pub, it had 4 bars. The Public Bar was Men Only and revolved around dominoes. It was only a small bar, and the three tables therein were permanently occupied during evening sessions with domino players, and even on weekday lunchtimes, there was always one table with five players busily engaged in dominoes.

The rules were strict. One did not leave the table whilst a hand was in progress. If you had to go to the loo, you asked an onlooker to play your hand, in order that the game was not interrupted. The game played was exclusively “Thirty-ones”, in which you played your hand and, at its end, the number of spots on your remaining doms were noted down. Hands were played successively, and when your cumulative score exceeded 30, you were out. It was 5p per game with 1p per knock, but remembering that Exhibition Ale was 16p per pint, the cumulative pot was quite substantial if you were lucky enough to win it.

The Public Bar also had two little tables that were used by non-domino players.

The pub had many characters. The Landlord, Percy Young, was very keen on bowls and was a member of Souter Bowls Club. A very smartly dressed man, Percy was a strict landlord, but if you got a bit drunk in the Public Bar, he would simply refuse to sell you any more beer and would tell you to go home and come back tomorrow. He knew his customers, and their alcoholic capacities, extremely well. Now that I am approaching 50, he remains one of my heroes to this day.

Other characters included Wally. A lobster fisherman, he hated people who left ready-made cigarettes burning in the ashtray, and would sometimes extinguish them with his beer. Alec was a dapper man in his fifties when I knew him. Ex-army, he would always insist that dominoes were laid on the table in a “straight, regimental” fashion. We had two Sids. One was diabetic and seldom drank alcohol, the other was an ex-policeman who gave me a lot of good advice and guidance in my early maturity. All were keen domino players.

The bulk of the Public Bar customers were working-class men, but the tendency was for such men to dress smartly – suit, shirt and tie, when they came out for an evening’s drinking. Ken, who was a bit of an intellectual, would come into the bar dressed in slacks, jacket and open-necked shirt. His dad, who was a regular, was deaf, and Ken would converse with him using sign language.

The Public Bar furnishings were basic. Benches, padded and finished in Rexine, lined the walls, and a few wooden stools with similar coverings provided the remaining seating. Three rectangular wooden tables topped with Melamine and permanently occupied with domino boards, were in evidence, and two little round tables occupied the remaining space. King Arthur and his Knights were not in evidence.

The serving bar could accommodate perhaps ten standing drinkers. Beers dispensed were Newcastle IPA, Exhibition and Harp Lager, through electric pumps. Draught Guinness was also available on pump. Bottled beers were Newcastle Brown and Amber; Jubilee stout, McEwan’s strong ale and Holsten Pils lager. Bottled Guinness, by the half or pint, also lurked behind the bar.

The main tobacco dispensary was also in the public bar. Embassy Regal, Capstan Full Strength and Woodbines were the main trade. You could also get Kensitas, Players and Golden Virginia, along with St Bruno, Capstan, Condor, Erinmore and a few plug pipe tobaccos.

From the Public Bar, one progressed to the Select Room. This was “Gentlemen Only” and a tie was de rigueur. The Monkseaton Moot met therein. This was a gathering of savants who met regularly and hired in speakers who addressed the august assembly on subjects of interest. I did not make much use of this facility, being young and daft in those days. The room was plushly furnished. It had no serving bar, drinks being obtained by pushing a bell push on the wall. A member of the bar staff would appear, take your order, and return with your drinks upon a tray.

Between the Public and Select, there was a lobby in which reposed a fruit machine. A few worthies would congregate there, placing their drinks on the solitary table, and observing or playing the machine, whilst diverting themselves by watching those who visited the Gents, entrance to which was adjacent to this nondescript arena.

A corridor linked this lobby to the Lounge Bar, but abutting directly onto this passage was the Sitting Room. This room was furnished in the same style as the Public Bar, but admitted women, and had a television set. Lunchtimes found the room occupied by horse-racing devotees, nipping in and out to Fred Laidlaw’s betting shop, or to the other Turf Accountant’s premises, the name of which escapes me. Evenings saw working-class couples enjoying the basic ambience of the room. There was no serving-bar in the Sitting Room. A bell summoned the bar staff who would dispense Ale and Jubilee Stout etc from a tray to the seated imbibers.

The Lounge was the ne plus ultra of the establishment. Presided over by Moira, Percy Young’s stalwart wife, this magnificent room was furnished in opulent green leather, with heavy tables of cast iron topped with a gold-coloured metal. Boots could be lost in the pile of the carpet. Strangely enough, this Ultima Thule housed a mixture of the suited and booted, along with some of the scruffiest individuals one could find. In some circles, in the early to mid-1970s, long hair and elbow-patches were marks of respect and signatures of brain and intellect. This room was dubbed “The Captain’s Cabin” by the owning brewery.

The Ship sold no food, except for crisps etc. A few experiments were made with the sale of hot dogs and toasted sandwiches, but, in the final analysis, the pub was a very traditional Local.

I left Monkseaton in 1976 in search of work, and have lived away from the North East for 30 years. The Ship still remains in my mind and memory, and I dedicate this little missive to the memory of those who drank in The Ship and have passed on, and to Percy and Moira Young in particular.

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