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Trussing The Cooper At Truman’s Brewery

March 1, 2017
by the gentle author

Cooperage in Spital St

More than a quarter century has passed since the Truman brewery closed in Brick Lane in 1989 and it is hard now to imagine the teeming life of the place that sustained itself over three centuries of brewing on this site. But thanks to the British Pathe archive of news footage, I was permitted a startling glimpse of the lively community that was once here. Trussing the Cooper records a traditional apprentice’s initiation ritual of humiliation in 1954. The apprentice, Gordon Wright of Bromley in Kent, is put in a barrel, covered with all kinds of filth and rolled around until he emerges coated in grime to be presented with a pint of ale, now a fully fledged cooper. It is a powerful cinematic cameo with a gleeful Dionysiac energy that cuts across the intervening half century, thrusting us into the joyful heart of their world. Whatever else was going on, these people certainly knew how to make their own fun – but I am glad I was not the one in the barrel. To his eternal credit, Gordon takes it all in great spirit. Maybe he had a couple of pints already to give him some Dutch courage?


The former Truman’s Cooperage

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5 Responses leave one →
  1. March 1, 2017

    Do a series on initiation rites GA!

  2. Philip Mernick permalink
    March 1, 2017

    I was a student 1964 to 1966 and spent my summer vacations working in Trumans. Aluminium kegs were just being introduced but wooden barrels were still the norm. One of Trumans claims was “more hops in Ben Truman” and my job was to add that “more” by taking a funnel full of hops from a long cloth “pocket” and stuffing them into previously filled barrels.

  3. Leana Pooley permalink
    March 1, 2017

    Sounded like Eamonn Andrews doing the commentary.

  4. John Finn permalink
    March 1, 2017

    We used to have a similar ritual for printing apprentices finishing their time – covered in ink and paper-offcuts (and sometimes worse!), the victim would be put onto a trolley and wheeled around the printshop’s neighbourhood, ending with a visit to the local pub. I’m pleased to say that the tradition had come to an end by the time I finished my apprenticeship as a compositor in the late 1960s. I wonder if the new ‘modern’ apprenticeships will evolve their own rituals.

  5. Sue permalink
    March 1, 2017

    I’ve seen that film several times. Didn’t they used to show it as a “filler” on the BBC in the Fifties and Sixties? Similarly there was a film about the “mudlarks” at Southend Pier.

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