When beer was 25p a pint!


November 23, 2016 by Swansea Camra

Swansea branch members about to set off on a minibus to Penrhos Court Brewery in Herefordshire, with founding member John Simms at front centre.

Swansea branch members in 1977 about to set off on a minibus to Penrhos Court Brewery in Herefordshire, with founding member John Simms at front centre.

Although Swansea Camra celebrated its 30th annual beer festival this year, it seems that the history of the branch actually goes back 12 years earlier to 1974.

The founding members in Swansea were DVLA workers John Simms and Graham Larkbey and they got in touch recently to send us their memories and some photos of themselves with hilarious 70s hair cuts and fashion sense (very sporting of them).

Graham Larkbey, one of the founding members, doing his bit for the cause, circa 1974.

Graham Larkbey, one of the founding members, doing his bit for the cause, circa 1974.

Said Graham: “The branch was founded by myself and John Simms (two “incomers” posted to the then-new DVLC from London & Taunton respectively) in 1974, as there was no branch west of Cardiff then.

“We wrote to all the registered Swansea members and invited them to an inaugural meeting in the Adam & Eve; the motley crew who responded became the nucleus of the new branch.”

Added John Simms: “We emerged with the late Ken Atkinson as chairman, Chris Haggett as treasurer and me as secretary. At the end of the evening Ken, Graham, myself and Chris Clement adjourned to the Duke in Wind Street where four pints of draught Bass cost a total of £1!”

Branch members were soon organising social events and even their first beer festival.
“We put on the first Swansea CAMRA beerfest in (I think) 1976,” said Graham. “It was at the TA Drill Hall by the Vetch, and we did the whole thing on a bank balance of about £65. At that time it was the biggest festival CAMRA had put on after Cambridge (this was before the first GBBF in London). It was a great success, and we did several more there, plus one in Llanelli.”

malt-and-hops-webThe branch also had a regular branch newsletter, Malt & Hops (pictured) and organised trips to breweries. The photo above shows Swansea branch members about to set off on a minibus to Penrhos Court Brewery in Herefordshire.

“The Penrhos trip was (I think) late summer 1977. I recall John and I missed the Swans v Hartlepool game to go on it, and got home to find the Swans had won 8-0 !” said Graham.

John also remembers doing a live radio phone in along with Graham during the early days of Swansea Sound. “We were on with a landlord from Cadoxton who told us we were wasting our time and that cask ale was finished!

“We also produced a real ale guide to the city which featured many long lost public houses,” he added. “We held ever larger festivals with beers from all sorts of now lost breweries such as Simpkiss, Yates and Jackson and Hartleys. By that stage Swansea University had a Real Ale Society and they were invaluable with staffing. One of the students was Rory Gowland, now of Swansea Brewery.”
Rory is still, of course, very much involved in Camra!

Sadly it seems the original branch more or less died around 1984/5, but was restarted in 1986 by a different group of members, who then began holding annual beer festivals, first in the Patti Pavilion, then the Ostreme Hall in Mumbles, and, for the last ten years, at the Brangwyn Hall.

Have you got any memories of the early days of Swansea Camra? If so, please send them to us at swanseacamra@gmail.com

4 thoughts on “When beer was 25p a pint!

  1. Sarah Atkinson says:

    Know I’m 2 years too late, but this came up on my timeline memory – I remember a lot of the people mentioned here as my Dad was Ken Atkinson. John Simms and Chris Clement were an influence on me and my early music (Jone Peel) and I still have a couple of tapes that I think John did for me Mc5’s being one. Also remember the Rock Against Racism gigs, Ponterdawe folk festival (Camra did the Bars) The Drill Hall festival (iI helped with the ploughman lunches all sourced from Swansea Market with Nancy Morgans granary bread.) This and the railway inn with musicians playing outside, me with my shandy and crisps (not allowed in pub) Children still aren’t allowed in the bars and the beer is still good. Living with my Dad couldn’t escape any of it. Would love to see more photo’s especially those of my Dad.

  2. Kay Byrne says:

    From ANDREW PORTER via email:
    Thank you for your report on the “original” Swansea branch of CAMRA, of which I was a member from 1976 to around 1982 when marriage (my first one, that is) rather put a stop to outside interests. The group picture from the Penrhos trip brings back memories, and I think I can name all the faces. Phil Blackmore is the guy in the duffel coat on the left. The date may well have been April Fool’s Day 1978 as we went to Hay on Wye for a lunchtime session, then on to Penrhos after for a meal in the evening. I’m the tall guy doing the rabbit ears gesture behind John Simms.
    I knew Ken Atkinson well, and he was chairman when I joined; in fact he recruited me whilst we were drinking in the Railway Inn, Killay. Ken stepped down after a few years as chairman, to be replaced by Bryan Morgan-Lewis, who stayed only a short while before a vote of no confidence saw him leave. His replacement was Alan Harman, who saw the branch through to its inevitable demise in the mid-1980s.

  3. Kay Byrne says:

    From CHRIS HAGGETT, via email:
    I am the Chris Haggett mentioned as being the original branch treasurer.

    There’s one thing John and Graham have modestly omitted to mention.

    They organised a small beer festival at Pennard in the summer of 1977. We were short of volunteers to serve the ale so they brought along a girl called Sylvia – who lived near them in a flat in Brynymor Road – to help us out.

    Sylvia and I celebrate our 39th wedding anniversary in January.

    I think I must owe them a pint, don’t you?

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