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Temperance Old & New

The following article is scheduled to appear in the Autumn Edition of East Lothian Life. As can be seen the temperance objectives were deliberately pursued at The Gothenburg for a decade that straddled the 1st World War, 1908-1919. Indeed what today would appear as a Bistro Bar was established.

It has been a curious twist of fate that the social unacceptability of drink driving should have emerged as the major instrument of the temperance movement in the 21st Century. Perhaps less surprising is that Sweden's laws still lead the world with zero tolerance.

The full history of The Gothenburg is still being prepared and is expected to be published as an historical booklet by October this year.

The Goth, as it is affectionately known in Prestonpans, was established in 1908 to encourage less heavy drinking amongst the local miners and brickworkers. It was a product of the Temperance Movement at the turn of the 20th Century that advanced their cause by building fine establishments that deliberately bonused the landlord for selling food and non alcoholic drinks. It was one of more than a score of such establishments created by the East of Scotland Public House Trust Company Limited, and amongst its investors was the famous Edinburgh Publisher, Thomas Nelson. At the time of his death in 1919 the chain of temperance houses was sold to a similar group in England known as Trust Houses, which survived until 1970 when it merged with Forte although The Goth itself had been sold to Bass/Tenant Caledonian in 1966. It cost just over £5000 to build and the land came originally from the barony of Prestoungrange. Several individuals owned The Goth in their own right after Bass itself sold out in the 1980s but none could make a success of it after the closure of the mines and the brickworks. The final publicans were Scott Murray, the Lions and Scottish rugby star, and his father.

The founders in 1908 did more than simply seek to reduce heavy drinking. They believed in diversionary recreation and to this end all profit above 5% on the capital invested was available for distribution by Trustees into the local community. Whilst WWI intervened, over the decade some £100,000 at today's values went to local community causes. (A comparable institution at Newtongrange, Dean Tavern, is still operating after 105 years and has to date allocated over £1m at today's values to local community activities.)

The association with Gothenburg is straightforward enough. Mid-19th Century Sweden had a major brandy drinking problem and laws were passed giving the cities there total control of the whole liquor trade (a total solution only attempted in Britain during WWI in Carlisle and Gretna which then lasted until 1970.) Gothenburg was the city which seemingly produced the best way of handling these new powers, most particularly ploughing profits back into recreational facilities. It became the Europe-wide role model.

The Baron Courts of Prestoungrange & Dolphinstoun acquired the premises in 2001 to restore them as a bistro, a reborn Fowler's Ales microbrewery and a destination for events and parties. In addition The Reborn Goth will be home to the Prestoungrange Arts Festival and all the related historical work the Baron Courts are engaged upon. The East of Scotland Public House Company has been revived with the same goals as in 1908 and the profits above the 5% return will go to the charitable work of the Baron Courts in the community. The microbrewery will bring many a nostalgic drinker to the bar to compare what now is and what fading memories can recall. Anyone complaining too loudly will have their name taken to join the team creating the next brew. Some 80 gallons a week are planned at the outset.

Those who remember the building of old will know it has superb views across the Forth from the upstairs meetings areas. But vitally important architecturally are the art nouveau tiles and copperwork and Edwardian woodwork of the main bar. They are clearly a key focus in the restoration. If all goes according to plan, the doors of The Reborn Goth will open to serve its Prestonpans community once again from early summer 2003.

Published Date: June 26th 2002

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