Having produced an article on temperance bands last year (see link below), it is clear to me – and to most brass players – that abstinence from intoxicating liquids is not the norm for brass bands. Many bands had links with local breweries (formal or informal) or had their “band club” with bar and “refreshments”. Even some of the temperance bands slipped and had to excuse themselves from the anti-alcohol movement, or were sacked by their sponsors. I recently came across this image of “Besses Band McDuffs Society” membership card, which actively promotes the consumption of thirst-quenching drinks. Though headed “Besses Band” it appears to be a stock card from either another band’s society or a generic card, which has had the Besses title pasted on top. Nevertheless it is still a fascinating small piece of banding history.
Most of the officers’ names are self-explanatory, giving away the spoof nature of the society. I wasn’t sure about the Chief Patrons, but a little bit of research established that Jane Cakebread was allegedly the “Drunkenest Woman in the World” – a record holder in the the Olympics of Disorderly Intoxication. That dubious distinction was based on at least 281 convictions in London for drunkenness or disorderly conduct.
Tottie Fay was another lady whose drunken outrages fascinated the public in the late 1880s – see the links below.