After a long while away, I was back at the British Library at Boston Spa today. For too long I’ve been meaning to take a proper look at Horatio Bottomley’s John Bull magazine. Today I got deep into some 1917 issues on microfilm.

Loathed by the respectable in his time, and vilified by all decent commentators ever since, Bottomley was a populist who filled his magazine with rabid jingoism – but also with down-to earth criticisms of the government and the military authorities.

It’s late now, so I won’t write more about him at the moment, but will just offer this food for thought: an advertisement for beer, published at a time when Lloyd George and the temperance movement were trying to brand beer-drinking as unpatriotic.

From John Bull, January 1917.


  1. Posted September 30, 2021 at 12:37 am | Permalink

    Interesting arguments! Any idea of their scientific accuracy?

    • Posted September 30, 2021 at 7:52 am | Permalink

      Bottomley was never the man to worry about strict scientific veracity. I should take these claims with a pinch of salt.
      The health benefits of beer were still being proclaimed in the 1950s. My generation still remmebers Bernard Miles promoting mackeson: ‘ It looks good, it tastes good, and by golly it does you good.’
      The advertising authorities wouldn’t allow that these days. Does that mean it is untrue? Or is it just that nanny-types want to discourage drinking?
      Where I think Bottomley has a point is in his dislike of ‘temperance drinks’. Soft drinks, as we’d call them today – either sugary or full of chemicals. I’m always puzzled by how a soft drink (water with a bit of fizz and a bit of flavouring) can cost as much as – or even more than – a half-pint of beer, most of whose price is made up of tax. I sometimes suspect that pubs’ profits mostly come from the designated drivers.

  2. Tom Deveson
    Posted September 30, 2021 at 6:01 am | Permalink

    That’s a good start to the morning – thank you.

    I look forward to more on the bottomless topic of HB.

  3. Posted September 30, 2021 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Really fascinating, enjoyed the links too.
    Excellent phrase of HB’s -“beggerly cheese paring.
    Applies sometimes today too.

  4. Jane Wickenden
    Posted October 1, 2021 at 2:34 am | Permalink

    Have you come across “Lloyd George’s Beer” as sung by Coope, Boyes and Simpson? I can’t recall whether it is a contemporary response or a modern pastiche, but it’s good fun.
    Incidentally, beer has plenty of B vitamins, so some health benefits.

    • Posted October 1, 2021 at 6:33 am | Permalink

      Definitely a contemporary song.
      And I’m sure you’re right about beer’s health benefits. Guinness, especially.

      • Roger
        Posted October 2, 2021 at 4:37 am | Permalink

        The first two or three times I gave blood I was offered a bottle of Guinness afterwards, supposedly for its health-giving qualities. It may have been a marketing ploy, but I felt a lot more healthy when I’d drunk it than I did after the tea and biscuits which replaced it.

        No doubt Lloyd George’s beer was made by “the very fat man what waters the workers’ beer”.

  5. victoriajanssen
    Posted October 3, 2021 at 2:30 pm | Permalink


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