Monday, October 19, 2009

Remember the London Beer Flood?

So, my once-a-day streak has ended. It wasn't' a very long run, but I'm pretty pleased that I kept it up during that first week. It's harder on the weekend because my desk-top at home is ancient--and by ancient, I mean five years old. And we don't get wi-fi at our apartment. My wife and I decided that in our future life (once I finish school) we should probably budget to buy a new computer every two years, if we want to stay relatively on top of things, and more importantly, if we don't want to waste large amounts of time waiting for our old, slow computer.

Well, I really wanted to post on Saturday because it marked the anniversary of a tragedy that I don't think nearly enough people are aware of. We talk about where we were for 9/11; our parents may remember where they were when Kennedy was shot; our grandparents may talk about where they were when Pearl Harbor was bombed, but who ever talks about where their ancestors were for the Great London Beer Flood of 1814? That's right, on October 17th 1814 vats of porter, at the Henry Meux Brewing Company began to explode causing a chain reaction that released 1,224,000 litres of beer onto the unsuspecting, poverty-stricken local public. The beer burst through a brick wall, flooded the streets, destroyed two poorly build houses, and filled the basement dwellings of many of the local poor folks.

All of the sources that I consulted reported 9 dead. At least three of them drowned as their basement apartments filled too quickly with beer for them to escape and a few others were trampled in the attempt to reach higher ground. One heroic man died of alcohol poisoning, in an attempt to save those trapped by drinking as much beer as he possibly could. Others rushed to the street with pails and buckets, though many just used their hands to lap up the beer filled streets. In the aftermath, the police had to shut down a couple of operations where relatives of those drowned were displaying the corpses for a fee. In fact, before the police intervened, there was one case where too many people entered a room (to see one of the deceased) which caused the floor to collapse, plunging them all into the beer-filled cellar.

So, no etymology today, because I thought that we should take a moment's pause to remember this marginalized event.

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