Sunday, 16 September 2012


Sunday 16th September.

I thought I'd let you all know a bit more about me and why we're doing this.

Firstly I should tell you that the photo fronting the blog was taken at least 10 years ago (I'm even better looking now). I'm 57, short, fat, four-eyed and bald with my own dentures (what a catch, eh, girls?). I've been married for 39 years and surprised my better half while on holiday in Cornwall this year by arranging for us to renew our wedding vows without her finding out until the vicar asked us to step forward (you wouldn't believe how many brownie points that earned me).

I work at a concrete products factory at a quarry driving a glorified fork truck (with a clamp but no forks). I've got two sons and a daughter and four grandchildren which I adore.

Anyway, about 30 years ago I had to wait almost an hour for a bus and it was persistently raining, so I took shelter in the library as it was next to the bus station. I was browsing the restricted section (this means the books are rare or valuable or both and you can't take them out, not full of porn) and I came across an old book entitled A History of Ashby de la Zouch (the town where I was born) by Sir Walter Scott (this fits in as Sir Walter Scott wrote Ivanhoe which was set in and around Ashby). 

One of the chapters was The Pubs and Inns of the Town and there was loads of interesting stuff in it like Dick Turpin using the pubs (although, it would seem, nearly every town claims this), the landlord who kept a bear in a pit in his bar and another who bought a lion from a travelling circus and kept it in his cellar, then let it out at closing time to get rid of the hangers-on.  But the most interesting one was about Timothy Dunn.

As I've said, this was about 30 years ago so I'm unclear on the dates but I remember the details of the tale very well.

I think it was about the mid 1800s or maybe a little earlier, but it was before there was a proper police force. To keep the peace there were about half a dozen members of the Inniskillen Fusiliers based in the town, one of which was Timothy Dunn. One night he had an "assignation with a lady of the town" behind The White Horse (a pub long since gone) where they had a disagreement and the soldier killed the woman in question. Unfortunately for Mr Dunn the crime was witnessed from an upstairs window at the back of the pub and he was duly arrested.

He was sent for trial at Leicester Assizes and in due course was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death by hanging. At this time in history it was common practice for prisoners to be taken back to the scene of their crime after their execution and their bodies hung on a gibbet, for all to see, as a deterrent to future wrongdoers. But the authorities thought this a barbaric practice and were trying to stamp it out. So the magistrate at the trial decreed that the body may be taken back to Ashby and put on display but not hung on a gibbet!

So the poor man was hanged and then bought back to the scene of his crime, but then came a bizarre turn of events. 

As the corpse could not be hung up it was decided (by the local dignitaries I believe) to disembowel him and then wedge open his  torso with pieces of wood! He was then placed on the bar of The White Horse and left there for three days!!! This, of course, did not sit well with his fellow Fusiliers and they announced that, if he was not given a proper burial, they would burn the pub to the ground. And so, the local authorities agreed that they would dispose of the body properly.

But that's not the end of this sorry story.

Instead of burying the body, it was taken to a local tannery on Smisby Road, and boiled "until the flesh fell off the bones". The skeleton was then reassembled and taken to the local Cottage Hospital where it was used as a teaching aid for student nurses.

And so ends the sad tale of Timothy Dunn.

I once told this story to a friend of mine who had worked as a nurse at Ashby Hospital and she said that she had seen this skeleton and it had a nameplate on the base with just the name Timothy Dunn, but I haven't been able to confirm this.

So this is where I got my interest in the history behind pubs (I'd always been interested in their products, sometimes too interested) and I also started collecting  a few bits and pieces associated with the brewing industry, named glasses, bar towels, ashtrays, mirrors, etc., (by the way, I've never stolen a glass or anything else, I've always asked and only been refused once, for a San Miguel bar towel in Majorca. The bar owner said he had just enough to go round his bar and you couldn't get them any longer). I've also started collecting bottles of beer, mainly from micro breweries, but this can get expensive (The Driftwood Spars in St Agnes, Cornwall, has its own brewery and produces around 20 different bottled beers and at about £2.50 a bottle it gets dear if you buy them all at the same time).

Then. about 6 years ago my wife became ill and I stopped going to the pub, having been quite a regular beforehand. She's on the mend now but I never did get back into the habit of going for a pint. I much prefer sitting in my garden with a few friends and family (or even on my own occasionally) and sinking a few cold ones (not having to worry about closing time and the smoking ban) which is fine during the summer but not so comfortable in November (or quite a few other months come to think of it) despite my fantastic chimenea!

So, one night, sitting looking around my garden my eyes settled on my old shed. It had seen better days and was full of junk but I suddenly had a brainwave!

I would turn my shed into a pub!!!!

It's a 10' by 8' shed with a pitched roof and with a little work its going to be a 12' by 10' pub with no last orders. This is an ongoing project and hopefully will be finished before the end of the pub crawl we're about to embark on (By the way, if anyone knows where I can get a bar top from, about 8 to 10 feet long, I'd be very grateful).

This is why my son suggested we could scrounge a memento from every pub we visit.

Well, I think that's enough from me for now. Unless my son posts anything, our next piece will be after our visit to The Bears Head next Saturday.


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