‘Elf’ & Safety -V- Sir Francis Drake’s ‘olde’ watering hole.
More often, than ‘often’, I mention the past, and comment on historical dit’s and adventures (‘swing the lamp’ for the Navy/’pull up a sandbag’ for the Marines). This is mainly due to the fact that it is fairly difficult to foresee and predict future escapades!
This post stands firm in the same manner.
Far gone memories were brought flooding back through a recent newspaper article (as well as several outraged phone calls from ex-Bootnecks). It concerns the past affection held for Sir Francis Drakes ‘olde’ watering hole in Plymouth, the Minerva Inn (from where, as a Vice Admiral, he quaffed a gallon after defeating the Spanish Armada in 1588).
The ‘Minerva Inn’ is a pub dear to my own heart. I drank my first ever pint there as a newly qualified Royal Marines Commando. When my son was born, a dozen or more good hardy Marines took me there ‘to wet the baby’s head’. In the same bar I celebrated a Marines engagement, his eventual stag night, and even ‘wet the baby’s head’ when his son was born. I celebrated all of my promotions within the ‘Minerva'; and sadly over the years I also mourned the death of some good Marines.
Consequently I ensured that every ‘sprog’ that became part of my Section/Troop/Company knew of the tradition that went along with the Minerva Inn, as well of other ‘public houses’ of great repute, that have passed into Bootneck folklore.
The ‘Minerva’ in particular, because one great individual that walked through its hallowed door was the great Vice Admiral ~ Francis Drake (who also dwelled in the house next door before moving onto far greater things). He will turn in his shroud at the thought of what public ‘elf’-&-safety demand of the present landlords.
Teak and oak beams taken from the ships of the defeated Spanish Armada form part of the interior of the Minerva Inn, they stand open and proudly on display for all to see. ‘Elf’ & Safety wish to see a great tradition covered over from the public eye, forever… Prior to active deployments, quite a few names from years gone past have left their mark within; some never to return. It is hoped that a tactical resolve can be found that suits all concerned.
Here comes the ‘dit’…
On reporting for duty at my first RM Commando Unit, I was unfortunate enough to (literally) bump into a giant of a Marine; by sheer coincidence I happened to bump into him again a few hours later, as I was shown my bunk opposite his in a two-man cabin. ‘Tiny’ took it upon him self to show me the ropes as well as the run ashore in Plymouth. That same evening I was ‘ordered’ to accompany him to a pub for a ‘quick’ pint of cider… being a ‘sprog’ straight from training I had no option but to comply. Fortunately it was a Thursday evening, the start of a long weekend’s leave, as well as the end of the month & payday.
Having caught a ‘hackney’ black cab into the City centre we pulled up outside of a small unassuming bar. Obviously I had the privilege of paying the taxi fare, and as I was reminded all evening, it was a ‘sprogs privilege’ to do so.
My first pint in Plymouth, on my first ever night in Plymouth, was at the bar of ‘The Minerva Inn’ on Looe Street, the oldest pub in Plymouth (CIRCA 1540, and home to the dealings of the press-gang).
As I paid the fare, Tiny was already through the door and ordering the pints that I was (also) about to pay for. He ordered four? I could have sworn he threw the contents of the first onto the floor, as he quickly banged the glass back onto the bar, empty? ‘Oh My God’, it dawned on me that this man was not just a giant of a man, but also a ‘Beer Monster’ of the most fearsome kind… The game was on! I followed suit and banged my empty glass down in the same fashion, and the next, after which I felt my leather belt strain slightly as my steel muscled six pack expanded (a newly acquired six-pack, the result of recruit training at the Commando Training Centre), what had I let myself in for…
After a half of a gallon, I was about to visit the heads and make a deposit to aid my expanding girth, when I heard a voice boom “where-R-U-going-Royal” ~ “to the heads” I replied, “but I don’t need to, & nor do you, we’re leaving and heading down the street to the Barbican, lets not waste time peeing”! Obviously giants have much larger bladders than mere mortals…
I groaned, my bladder groaned, and my leather belt ‘creaked’ like the harness on a heavy Shire horse pulling a cart full of potatoes.
Safe to say I made the next pub with dignity intact, and continued the night in good form. It was made easier as I somehow managed to lose my 6’ 6” drinking partner in a bar that was packed to the ‘gunwales’. Though I was fortunate enough to bump into two of my squad mates from training.
The next morning I was tipped from my bunk by a grinning ‘Hercules’, as he required my presence at breakfast. Mid morning I endured a long 7-mile run with the beast, all in readiness for that evenings second attempt at bladder control, which obviously started in the Minerva Inn
“Train hard, fight easy, and drink till you stink on R & R“… Not the words of Sir Francis Drake, but the mighty Beer Monster ‘Tiny’.