The ghosts of The Mountain Daisy
By Jo Howell 20/02/2023
From the blustery streets outside of the heavy doors we bow our heads against the wind and press our bodies in. All day we grafted. Each their own crafts. The brewery boss from Vaux is downing a few bevvies with the foreman from the Corning glass factory. The lads from the ship yards are playing the most exciting game of cards. The gas lamp flickers over the fire yellow ceramic bar. With lions we sink a double maxim and take it all in.
In walks the dandiest bloke you ever did see. Sporting a tall hat that harks back to a fashion gone at least 10 years since. With shillings and half pence we collaborate with the manager of the mines about the local lads in red and white. Here we have our football champions of the English league in 1902. Cheers! Here’s to you!
Under the magnificent hand painted views of our beautiful north: Cragside, Durham, Marsden, the Wear, the Tyne, and Hylton Castle. All framed in embossed tiles that are so magnificent that you are proud to be a mackem. Mosaics under foot take me back with each new dram to the thoughts of the Roman Empire. They were once up here to, you know.
A cheer goes up across the room as the pianist sits down to play us a rousing tune. All singing. The glass blowers puffed cheeks now forming the song his missus warned him not to sing. Raucous laughter as our Jimmy stands on his chair to shout out the chorus as coarse as a hedgehog brush.
This place is for the grafters. Them that work hard. And we work bloody hard! But, this place was made for us. Where the lowly meet the high. Every Saturday a musical show or cabaret. Unwinding the work from your muscles at the end of the day. No watery ale here! Only ever the finest brew. On rare occasions we may spill into the street as a ball of fisticuffs and crude words mainly at the sound of the final bell.
In many years time, a long time after my own death, the unions would set up in the big hall upstairs. Here we made socialist history. The unions, the pitmen parliament, the ship yards, the railways, the mines, the glass works, the ceramics factory, the ropery, the sailmakers, the domestics, the scholars, the artisans. All once in this room. Echoes of someone else’s memories reverberate off the tiles. You swear you can hear the voices of them all gone before. A soothing melody of the ancestors warm and fuzzy from the drink.
Flip the switch. As the electric lights clear the room of the ghosts, the heating has been put on, and the bar is about to open once again. Here’s to the the hipsters, the students, the workers, the immigrants, the locals, and everyone else. This is for you now. Remember us as you sup your pint.