East End ‘geezers’ get two grand tax money for pub crawl looking for boozers

Ray Gipson tracing lost East End pubs

Ray Gipson tracing lost East End pubs - Credit: Archant

Ray Gipson is a recognised ‘geezer’ who has just been given £2,000 to go on a big pub crawl around London’s East End—on the taxpayer.

Ray Gipson tracing lost East End pubs

Ray Gipson tracing lost East End pubs - Credit: Archant

But the retired lorry-driver and former Tower Hamlets councillor isn’t on a binge.

The founder of Bow’s Geezers’ Club for pensioners has been awarded a Big Society ‘Community First’ grant to research pub closures.

His club is using the cash for a project with Tower Hamlets Archive at Mile End on the history of East End watering holes that have dried up and vanished, for an exhibition in the New Year.

He is looking for photographs of old pubs in Bow where he lives, to start with, and wants to contact former landlords and the regulars who kept the boozers in business.

Advertiser cutting... 'haunted' Black Swan pub bombed in 1916

Advertiser cutting... 'haunted' Black Swan pub bombed in 1916 - Credit: Geezers Club

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“I blame breweries and investment companies,” Ray fumed. “They sold off pub sites and didn’t care about the social value—at least 40 have gone in Bow alone since the 1970s.”

Many are converted into flats, betting shops or offices. His own local, the Needle Gun in Roman Road Market, is now a City View hotel. Landlady was Hazel Prager, sister of 1940s dance orchestra leader Lew Prager, he recalls.

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Ray has been thumbing through old newspaper clippings to trace the Lady Franklyn he remembers in Parnell Road where the No 8 bus once turned round, which had the pub’s name as its destination.

He found an old East London Advertiser cutting about the Black Swan near Bow Church destroyed in a 1916 Zeppelin air-raid which killed the publican’s family and pet dog, whose ghosts were said to have returned to haunt the rebuilt pub after the Great War.

The Aberdeen in Grove Road drew nightly tourists for its live music with Tom Jones lookalike singer Les Angeles, but vanished in the 1990s when Mile End Park was extended. There was also a pub called the John Bull.

The ‘pub crawl’ is the latest jaunt by the Geezers Club, which was set up in 2007 after an Age Concern survey found retired men in the East End kicking their heels hanging out in taverns—those that were still open, that is—and betting shops, or just “leaning on park railings watching the world go by.”

Now Ray has them looking for boozers—and has “no shortage of volunteers”.

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