Carting booze around the region especially without paying duty was a popular and life threatening pastime for many years, and the proliferation of unlicensed drinking establishments gave a ready market. When Burns was an exciseman he visited Penpont which now doesn't even have a single pub but then had 9. He was beaten up for his snooping, quite rightly. In 1716 there were no less than 91 brewers in Dumfries. An early 19th century street plan of Dumfries shows more than 30 pubs or premises selling booze in Queensberry St alone.
Though the number of pubs declined the regions love affair with alcohol continued. Even after the Defence of the Realm Act in 1915 when pub opening hours were restricted to stop munitions workers falling steaming in the cordite, folk found a way round it. England's more relaxed licensing laws, at least until the 1970s, meant that people in some parts of the region were well placed to slip across the border for that vital last half hour's boozing. And not in small numbers. The Gretna munitionettes, there in huge numbers to save the nation during World War One, took to the train to Carlisle for a drink on a Friday or Saturday night. Trouble was the train arrived 5 minutes before closing time. Sometimes the train drivers were bribed to leave early but the barmen of Bousted's Bar in Carlisle knew to start pouring and lining up a thousand whiskies on the bar before all these thirsty women arrived.
|Where the workers boarded the train at Eastriggs|
Although the pubs are fewer the thirst remains. Of course alcohol abuse is a terrible curse and drain on the NHS but human beings and drink are involved in a historical romance which continues to this day. Last night in Thornhill we were drinking our way through some of the gantry in the historic Farmers Arms, and swapping some drinking anecdotes but most were either litigious or not very savoury.