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Sober views from the pulpit.

Byline: Denis KILCOMMONS denis.kilcommons@yahoo.co.uk

SIXTY four years ago, a vicar in Barrow-in-Furness preached against football pools which, even then, were raking in PS1.5 million a week from hopeful punters. "Don't be mugs," he said. The odds of winning were, he said: "As remote as the chance of striking a match on a lump of wet soap or opening a tin of salmon with a lump of sausage."

The odds remain the same but people still do it.

This was just one example of the wit and wisdom clergymen imposed upon their flocks in times past, as culled from the pages of the British Newspaper Archive. But the one rant that really sparked my interest was from a clergyman in Northumberland and focussed on the evils of drink. "We have no teetotal society in connection with this parish church. Nor is there any attempt to coax or cajole people into soberness by concerts, speeches or hymns. A better plan, surely, than all these weak devices, is for a man who has a drunken neighbour to thrash him as being a scandal to the neighbourhood. "To thrash anyone in the home who drinks immoderately, whether man, woman, son or daughter, is surely not a better plan. If some straightforward way like this were adopted we should soon hear of fewer drunkards. We are suffering from softness."

They take no prisoners in Northumberland. His plan was not universally embraced. The nation was obviously too soft. But the temperance movement was in full swing trying less confrontational methods of persuasion. The Temperance Society in Huddersfield started in 1832, with a junior section called The Band of Hope. They took the pledge which was to abstain from all liquors of an intoxicating quality, whether ale, porter, wine or ardent spirits, except as medicine. And I have met many chaps at the bar who claim they were having a pint of bitter purely for medicinal purposes.

The word teetotal was coined, legend suggests, at a Preston meeting where an ardent member with a stammer declared he would be "t-t-total for ever".

In Huddersfield, temperance coffee wagons took to the streets and tea and coffee shops opened to tempt drinkers from public houses. Membership was huge. A Whit Tuesday procession in 1907 mustered 9,000 marchers and seven brass bands.

Despite all the good intentions, the movement died out in the middle of the last century, and yet, we still have a continuing debate about binge drinking and alcoholism.

The definition of temperance is moderation and self restraint but the English have a heritage of drinking that many refuse to dilute. Achieving temperance, it seems, remains as likely as striking a match on a lump of wet soap or opening a tin of salmon with a lump of sausage.

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TOTTING UP: 19th century Temperance poster
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Aug 30, 2013
Words:475
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