Take Courage in the face of idiocy

take-courage-1961Out of the 49 million adults in the UK it apparently only takes three idiots to complain for a 60-year-old advertising slogan to be banned by the Advertising Standards Authority.

The phrase “Take Courage” has been in use by the brewers of Courage since at least 1950, when the beer still came from the Anchor brewery hard by Tower Bridge: the earliest mention I have been able to find is from a book on “Royal Windsor’ published that year which contained an advertisement for the Royal Oak pub:

For good beer, good cheer, a friendly atmosphere and a ready welcome, at all times, visit the “ROYAL OAK” Opposite Windsor Station LUNCHEONS PARTY CATERING tel Windsor 1179
Whenever you see a cockerel
take COURAGE

the cockerel, of course, being the Courage trademark.

Another early mention of the slogan comes in an article from a publication called the American Magazine, which covered a trip to Europe in 1952, and which is worth reprinting because of the fabulous picture it gives of pub life in the first year of Queen Elizabeth II:

Stopped next at a family-style pub with little old ladies lining the wall like chaperones at a school dance. They gossip and watch goings-on, including us. A woman in spectacles and a tired fur piece got up and sang a song. Left pub early because we fly to Paris at 9am.. Saw sign saying ‘Take Courage Here.’ Learned Courage is a brand of beer. Long live England!

Alas, in the 57th year of Liz’s reign, when Wells and Young’s, who now brew Courage beers at Bedford, decided to press the old slogan into new service, a trio of feckwits complained to the ASA that the ad showing a woman in a new dress clearly asking the question all men know must be answered “No, darling, certainly not” really implied that the beer the man was drinking “would give him confidence to either make negative comments on the woman’s appearance or take advantage of her.” Take advantage of her? What strange planet do this people beam down from?

takecourageThe ASA, demonstrating that you have to have a senseofhumourectomy before you can become an advertising watchdog, has ruled that “Although we understood the humorous intention of the scenario” – well, no, I don’t think you do, actually – “we concluded that the poster breached the [advertising] code by suggesting that the beer could increase confidence.” Clearly no one at the ASA ever has a drink, either, because as a number of commentators have pointed out, alcohol DOES increase confidence, whether the ASA wishes it or not, and making jokes about that fact is perfectly legitimate.

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Befuggled: doubts about a hop’s birth

(Update December 2014 – for more on this subject, answering several questions, see here)

Bang, bang, another beery myth hits the floorboards, or at least staggers back badly wounded, after excellent work by Kim Cook in an article called “Who produced Fuggle’s Hops” just published in the latest (Spring 2009, issue 130) edition of Brewery History magazine.

The story repeated everywhere about Fuggles, one of the two classic English hop varieties, first appeared 108 years ago in an article called “The Hop and its English Varieties”, by John Percival (1863-1949), then professor at the agricultural college in Wye, Kent, in the Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, vol 62, and reprinted in the Brewers’ Journal March 15 1902 edition, pp 10-16. Percival wrote of the Fuggle hop that

“The original plant was a casual seedling which appeared in the flower-garden of Mr George Stace, of Horsmonden, Kent. The seed from which the plant arose was shaken out along with crumbs from the hop-picking dinner basket used by Mrs Stace, the seedling being noticed about the year 1861. The sets were afterwards introduced to the public by Mr Richard Fuggle, of Brenchley, about the year 1875. (Letters from Mr John Larkin, Horsmonden, Mr W.J. Noakes, Goudbury and others.)”

Horsmonden and Brenchley are two villages in the Kentish Weald, about a mile apart. The Fuggles variety grows well in the stiff, damp, clayey soils of the Weald, and better than hops such as Goldings do in such soils. If a new, hardy, heavy-cropping hop, comparatively very rich in lupulin, and well-suited to Wealden conditions suddenly popped up in the district, a Wealden hop farmer was indeed likely to spot it and introduce it commercially. So do the records support Percival’s account of the birth of Fuggles?

Unfortunately, Kim Cook’s investigations show, they don’t. There was nobody living in Horsmonden in 1861 called George Stace: the census returns that year show no families called Stace, or anything like it, in the village at all, nor any Georges whose surname bore any possible resemblance to Stace. A wide-ranging search uncovered several people called George Stace living in and around the Wealden area at the right sort of time, but none with any good connection to Horsmonden. (Update – it turns out that the reason why no one can find George Stace is because his name was actually George Stace Moore– see comments below.)

Fuggles hops 1902
Fuggles hops 1902

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