Our Century

Coal at one penny a time

Allan Onions, Lichfield Born 1927

Allan Onions

"My grandmother, Sarah Onions, was a fine old lady who ran the Joiners Arms in Camp Street, Wednesbury, like a matador. Everyone was frightened to death of her.

"It was a very respectable pub with no gambling allowed. There were two rooms known as the Commons, which had a spit-and-sawdust floor and the Lords with a big table and an open fire.

"It brewed its own beer and everyone knew it as the Glue Pot.

"During the Depression, she ran a scheme where she bought a railway-wagon load of coal in the summer and sold it to people at one penny or tuppence a time, to help them out.

"At bank holiday she would roast a huge piece of beef on a spit in the brewhouse so everyone had beef sandwiches.

"And on Saturday morning the workmen would come in for free cheese sandwiches. It kept them drinking for longer.

"In the summer they organised charabanc trips for the half-day, down to places like Kinver or Shifnal. It was a big thing for chaps who never saw a green field.

"There was also a sick club run by the pub. People paid in threepence a week and if they were off sick they got 1.

"At the end of the year, any money left over was divided between them, so there was an incentive to stay healthy."

  • Allan Onions went on to become County Surveyor for Staffordshire and was awarded the OBE. He retired in 1988