As we enter the season of the Office Party, the sight of drunken office workers rolling and reeling around Canary Wharf could lead many to believe “Binge Drinking” is a modern phenomenon .
However we might have to reconsider if we read the following excerpt from Seven Year’s Hard, a book written by Richard William Free who was a clergyman who come to work in Isle of Dogs in 1897.
Christmas is the thankfully acknowledged time for
the most glorious ” drunk ” of the whole year. Then
our friend the working-man will go to the public-house
and lay his golden sovereigns on the counter, with in-
structions that he is to have drink as long as the
money lasts. When he becomes incapable, he reels
home, or is carried home, and ” sleeps it off.” On
returning to consciousness, back he goes and repeats
the process. If there is still a balance on his deposit
account, he will go at it again and again until it is
exhausted. Many a man has five or six such bouts
during the Christmas holidays.
Worse still, mere children of from thirteen to sixteen
years old will be seen in the open streets, in the glare of
the morning, maudlin or utterly helpless. On Christmas
Eve the factory girl will draw out of her wine-club every
penny she has been saving for weeks past, and will
spend the whole of it on cake (a little) and liquor
(much). I have known her to knock off work at one,
and be dead drunk by five.