In May 1988, I went on a CAMRA-organised march to protest against the closure of Oldham Brewery by Boddingtons, who had taken it over in 1982. This moment was captured forever in the picture above, which appears in the 1989 Good Beer Guide. The gormless speccy twat second from the right is me, looking considerably more fresh-faced than now. The gnome-like fellow in the foreground is the late stalwart of North Manchester CAMRA Pete Cash.
I remember it being a fairly balmy Spring day in Manchester, but once the ancient diesel unit had climbed the five hundred feet to Oldham it was bitterly cold with intermittent snow showers. We eventually managed to find some of the remaining stocks of OB ales in a couple of pubs. To be honest, nobody imagined that the march would change Boddingtons’ mind – it was more a question of bearing witness to the cause and marking the passing of the brewery.
Pubs Galore, has recently started his own blog The Never Ending Pub Crawl to record his various expeditions over the years. In February 1987 he undertook a pub crawl of Oldham to experience Oldham Brewery pubs before being “Boddingtonised”. He covered 13 pubs in one lunchtime, accompanied by his long-suffering wife, to whom he is apparently still happily married. Why have I never found a woman like that?
These pubs were mostly basic inner-urban boozers, but most served real ale and had their own distinctive character. Today, most are probably closed, and those that remain are unlikely to have cask beer. I remember doing crawls like that in the 1980s in places such as Eccles and Stourbridge, but you couldn’t do it now. I don’t think I ever went to 13 pubs in one lunchtime, though. When you consider that kind of pub devastation, which is paralleled in many other areas, all these claims that “it has never been a better time to be a beer drinker in Britain” ring very hollow.