"We'd have to cut the panel."
Thirty years ago to the day as I type this I was sitting with a friend in the Laughing Jackass in Woodville. With the Land Rover back on the road and the Austin Healey completed we were discussing how a Weber 40 DCOE carburettor could be fitted to a Fiat 126 as part of our new, short-lived, project to produce a 60bhp 'road louse'. I'm not sure why we had diverted from our usual Monday evening haunt of Newhall's Horse & Jockey. Perhaps it was simply to try out this newly-opened, and as it turned out also short-lived, hostelry. Whatever the reason was we both glanced up from the pencil drawing which had been sketched out on a delaminated beer mat as the door opened.
"Ian's dead!" And once more in case I hadn't grasped it, "Ian's dead!"
And with that simple two word phrase a teary-eyed Mrs. Bygone Boozer broke the news that my best friend of three decades was no more.
"He had a fall. Andy's just phoned."
I'd spoken with Ian two days earlier. He'd called to ask if it'd be OK to post me a cheque for the balance of an upcoming Swedish ski holiday after the weekend for he was about to leave home to watch Scotland play Wales at Murrayfield. He went on to say that he was going to Creag Meagaidh the following day to climb The South Post and would place the cheque into the care of the Royal Mail on his way to work on Monday.
Since meeting at primary school we'd been classmates, fishing companions, teammates for the town's rugby club and were both regular Friday-nighters in The Highlands. Our fathers had had neighbouring shops on Baker Street in Gorleston, almost opposite the old Crown & Anchor. Unlike so many school friendships this one had endured after we moved on to follow our respective university courses and then on again to our places of employment, mine in Derbyshire, his in Glasgow. We continued to meet up regularly for skiing and mountaineering trips.
Ian's location in Glasgow was great for those visits to the Scottish mountains. A five hour drive north, followed by pakora and a Chicken Methi in the local curry house before wandering back to his place on North Woodside Road. Without fail we'd call in at the Pewter Pot, or the Putrid Spot as he liked to call it – always one to save his choicest abuse for his favourite team – on the way. This would set us up well for continuing on to Glencoe or Fort William the following morning, or maybe the afternoon if we'd been a bit overindulgent.
Born in the same year as Ian, the Pewter Pot opened in 1955 in the angle where North and South Woodside Roads met, with Duncan MacRae pulling the first pint for landlady Marie Aitken. It'd be twenty-five years after the Whisky Galore! actor made his first (only?) appearance in the pub that I made mine. (MacRae might have featured in Whisky Galore!, Our Man in Havana, the original, spoof, version of Casino Royale and numerous other films but I remember him best as the doctor in one of the episodes of The Prisoner.)
With a large beer garden, serving food and pretty decent ale – a relative rarity in Scotland in the early 1980s – it always seemed busy. It may well have been a popular place, but no more will I sup a pint there. And not just because I'll no longer be staying with Ian.
Despite its popularity with the locals, even a number of years before it finally closed there were plans for its demolition and the construction of a block of student accommodation. It eventually shut its doors for the final time on 3rd April 2014 and was demolished twelve months later. Its former location is now occupied by this:
So that's what happened to the Pewter Pot. What happened to Ian? Perversely, he and his partner successfully ascended The South Post and were seen walking, still roped together, at the top. One or other must have tripped and gravity then did its bit with the pair of them found at the foot of the climb. He now lies in the company of his mother's family in the churchyard in Strathmiglo.
If there's a lesson to be found in this load of drivel it's to really appreciate those close to you, for you never know when they'll no longer be there. Oh! And don't turn down the immediate offer of a cheque either.
The Pewter Pot 1955 – 2014.
Ian 1955 – 1991. Miss you mate. After all, it was your round next.
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