Or was it a pub crawl. Michael Shillito again! Mike was working as a drayman for Bentleys Yorkshire Breweries out of Woodlesford. We would be about 19 or 20 years old and Mike, whilst boasting about the perks of his job invited me to come with them on a delivery round next time I had a day off work.
Couldn’t wait for it, and booked a days leave as quickly as possible. Mike and Ernest Mattinson (big Matty) duly picked me up about 11am to do a delivery to pubs mostly in the Pontefract/Knottingley areas. Bear in mind they had already completed a round in the Rothwell area.
One of the attractions Mike had told me was that when they had set the barrels up in the cellar, the Publican would usually pull a pint for the draymen, and this I was looking forward to. In addition they carried a crate of bottled ale under the seat in the cab ‘in case of emergencies’. They also, I’m told, had access to any amount of free beer at the brewery – what a job.
The first delivery was to the Bradley Arms in Castleford, the cellar was a maze of glass pipes joined with cork connections and a total mystery to me. However there were a lot of barrels to go in and empties to go out. As promised, after laying the barrels a pint of beer was pushed over to me, and this before opening time.
The next drop was in Pontefract, not as many barrels here, but the customary generosity still prevailed. Another pub in Pontefract, I can’t remember the name, this time it was cups of tea and fish and chips all round. In this case it was a difficult operation to get the barrels in.
The standard procedure was to unload the barrels off the truck on to a thick padded buffer, then the barrel or beer crate was let down an angled track restrained by a chain (I’m not sure they used the chain all the time). The barrels are then laid on timber stands and prepared for tapping and the crates stacked for the landlord. The reverse process then applied to the empties.
Well, there we were en route to a fourth delivery and big Matty was opening a couple of bottles in the cab. Knottingley was the next port of call and a pub near the canal, here we were treated again for using the wheels to deliver to an awkward stock room. A second drop in Knottingley then a final delivery to a public house somewhere out of town with the usual reward interspersed with the odd bottle in the cab.
Finally we were on the way home, I hadn’t done much lifting except with my right arm and I was ok as we drove through Methley to pull up at the top of Woodrow Hill. Somehow the fresh air and a lack of synchronisation of disembarking caused my knees to buckle and I ended up in a heap in the ditch. As the truck pulled away on its way to the brewery, probably for the last pint it slowly dawned on me that the pair of them had paced themselves throughout and when I was having a drink it was usually with only one or the other. Cheers lads.