The Waterman's Arms

Charles Macfarlane

The Waterman's Arms used to be, and still was until at least a few years ago, when my job frequently took me to Docklands in London, a pub at the North End of the Greenwich foot tunnel under the Thames.  But when I really knew the place in the late 60s / early 70s, that area was still genuine dock land.

The pub then had a resident band called The Levity Lancers, who played Jazz / Skiffle / Musical Hall interleaved with blue jokes and ribald stories ...

"Hey, you dahlin!  Yes, you leaning against the pole!" and the whole pub falls silent, transfixed on an over-dressed female posing draped around a pole supporting the ceiling.  "Give it a stroke, luv, there's a fireman lying on the floor upstairs!"

... Perhaps not so wonderfully funny out of context in my later years, but at the time we fell about, as far as there was actually room to do so.

I'm guessing here, but they seemed to throw out one joke every night or so, and replace it with a new one, so that if you went every now and then, say not more often than every six months, it was hilariously entertaining without being stale.  And every time we went, the place was heaving.  You had to practically fight your way to the bar.  It was so bad that we'd go in threes and get the next three rounds at once, splitting the cost.  As you tried to move through the crowd carrying the glasses above your head, drunken sailors and dockers would put their arms around you and try to dance with you.

Then, I suppose, a style guru from the brewery must have visited, because one day we went in there, and the back room where the band had played had been turned into a disco, where six youths sat harpooned to the wall by the deafening sound, with mouths hanging open as traps for the unwary among some dazed, circulating flies.  We shuddered in horror, and left in shell-shocked silence.

I never saw The Waterman's Arms as full ever again.  Next we heard of The Levity Lancers they were playing in a touristy 'old-fashioned English pub' type of bar in the Leicester Square area, probably for a lot more money.

That 'improvement' must have cost the brewery thousands in lost revenue ...


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