Inspired by the many different pubs and bars in the Ouseburn, Istvan recalls his time working for Allied Breweries in Birmingham.
So Istvan would you mind just telling me how you came to be working at Ansell breweries in Birmingham
Well when I come to this country in 1956, I went to British railways as an engineer, from there, I only worked 8 months, and from there, because I was in Didcot and from there I went off to Birmingham and found Ansell’s brewery was in Birmingham and I went to the labour exchange and they sent me to allied breweries as an engineer and they interviewed me there by the foreman and they said when can you start? But in that time I wasn’t speaking very well English and I couldn’t understand very much of their English and I met Bill, he was the foreman, he took to me for some reason, I don’t know and he said yeah start tomorrow or next week if you like and I said I’ll start tomorrow but I didn’t have much tools at the time and allied breweries gave me some money for some tools to go out but Bill came with me to sort the tools out I need. He paid for it but I had to pay it back to the brewery and that’s how I started at allied breweries and I was there for quite a while.
So what did you do there exactly, what was your job?
Well my job was to repair conveyors, pumps, and weld pipes; all what maintenance engineer had to do in a brewery. So we done all sorts.
So what was it like working there?
Oh it was absolutely brilliant. I didn’t, I found the blokes, my working buddies they was great and no I found the working conditions was alright for me and the wages, they were brilliant actually yeah I don’t think anybody in Birmingham earned better money than us. Newcastle brewers, Ansell brewers and allied brewers, they changed beers. Ansell sent miles up here and Newcastle sent Newcastle brown, I don’t know if they still make them or not, I haven’t been in the pub so I haven’t seen them in the shops so I wouldn’t know and because I don’t drink and it was great because the fellows loved Newcastle brown so, very often they, a few bottles was missing out of the crate but that’s how it went.
You mentioned I think when we were chatting before, can you tell me about the strike in 1981 then you’ve touched on the union to there, what was the strike all about
Well it’s the brewers went out on strike because money and working conditions and they took the rest of the brewery out with them, the brewers, so the whole Ansell brewery was going out, even the transport, well they couldn’t do anything because there was no beer. They could have worked because there was plenty to do but not for a long time, only for short while and the management told them if they go out on, if they take everybody out on strike, they’re going to shut the gates. The union wouldn’t take it they said they’re bluffing. But it was at the time it wasn’t Ansell anymore it was allied breweries, allied breweries bought Ansell’s up and they shut the gates and we couldn’t even go back for our tools for 3 months and then just they took everything out of Ansell’s up to Burton because that’s where allied was and that was it. I’m very very sorry about that because I suppose I could’ve helped longer there because my age even though I was still pretty youngish.
Beyond the Map
Community groups come together to record stories about Newcastle’s Ouseburn Valley.