Saturday, 6 June 2009

Guest Blogger - Arfur Daley

I am pleased present our fourth guest blogger, Arfur Daley. If you are interested in contributing to the blog please get in touch -

Arfur is the owner, editor and writer of the Brew Wales blog, the number one source for news on beer, brewing, pubs,cider and perry in Wales. He is also a CAMRA member, Vulcan regular and journalist - his review of the Vulcan for the South Wales Echo can be read here.

Arfur Daley - The Vulcan

Although I grew up in Newport, I hardly used to go to drink in Cardiff pubs. I never really liked the Newport pubs as I disliked the taste of the local beer, Ansells Best (sic). It was only after living in London that I discovered what good beer was. A chat with some members of Cardiff CAMRA told me that the one pub to visit in Cardiff was the Vulcan. Now this is about 18 years ago, when the Albert, the Brains Brewery tap and now transformed into the Yard was, well, a spit 'n' sawdust pub where they regularly ran out of sawdust, the Golden Cross had not yet diversified into the colourful bar it is today and the Vulcan was, well the Vulcan.

Standing on Adam Street, I can remember admiring the glazed tilled frontage of the Vulcan and pushing the door open to reveal the smoky, hazy atmosphere of the pub. Odd that as a non-smoker myself that I would ever miss that experience but the smell of beer and fags is an unforgettable aroma that always reminds me of what is perhaps the first time I ever went into a pub, over 30 years ago for a family wedding reception. Back to the Vulcan, there was fresh sawdust on the floor and one of the best pints of Brains Dark I had ever drunk was imbibed on that occasion. I would not say that I became a regular after that, but would occasionally pop in every now and then when in Cardiff. One day when I popped in, the beer was 10p a pint, Brian having won a barrel from Brains had decided to sell it to customers at a very cheap price rather than pocket the profit! The Vulcan only ever did two real ales, Bitter and Dark, and for years I only ever drank the Dark in there.

Even then there were murmurings that the pub was to be demolished in a redevelopment. I do remember coming back from West Wales one Sunday and popping in the Vulcan for a few jars before heading back to Newport, only for the Sunday Licensing hours (you had to shut at 3 in those days) to be extended for a very amusing afternoon. Must really get there on Sunday again as Dom says they are quite lively.

The local CAMRA branch used to regularly use the back room for meetings, as pubs with good beer and meeting rooms were always in short supply. Always happy to serve us, Brian and Liz made sure that sandwiches were there to help wash down the beer! Another feature used to be in the days when the Vulcan did food and the pub became a regular lunchtime venue for CAMRA members setting up the Cardiff Beer Festival (now the Great Welsh Beer & Cider Festival, CIA) in nearby Splott. The mixed grill was a perennial favourite, the price was very reasonable and it came with a separate bowl of chips! A few years ago I used to run a nearby pub, the Purple Dragon, now the Big Sleep Hotel, and would quite often pop into the Vulcan for a bite to eat!

Once I was given tickets to see a new Star Wars film and popped into the Vulcan for what I thought would be a quite Saturday pint. How wrong I was, the pub was packed with Rugby league supporters as the final was being played in the Millennium Stadium. What an afternoon! Singing and beer and more beer and singing. The supporters, from Leeds or Leicester I think, had phoned up the pub in advance asking if they could fill it. Of course Mein Hosts said yes and the pub was packed. Brian spent most of the day in the cellar changing barrels, as it’s safer and easier than having to open the trap door behind the bar every time a barrel runs dry.

I even enjoy the “Guinness is Good for You” logo on the side of the pub, possibly dating from the late 1920s. Nowadays a slogan promoting alcohol in this way is banned, but it does sort of fit in with the atmosphere of this wonderful Cardiff boozer.

Some 10 years ago CADW were contacted and were asked to protect the pub through statutory listing. They decided not to, citing that the nearby Golden Cross had better tile work than the Vulcan, completely missing the point that the Vulcan is worthy of saving for many reasons. One point that is personal to me is when I read about the Irish community of Adamstown. My family originally came from Ireland in the 1820s and although we settled in Newport not Cardiff, we soon became involved in the pub trade. Very few of the Newport pubs my ancestors ran still survive, for instance, the Irishman's Arms in Mellon Street closed in 1922, with my Great Grandmother Julia Daley being the last licensee. The Vulcan is the last pub left of the now demolished Adamstown community and should be preserved for it. Who cares if the pub was remodelled in the 1900s or that the interior was altered in the 1950s? That is not important. What is important is that the Vulcan is a link with the past; a connection we can all have with the foundries and the workers that used to dominate this area, just by visiting the pub for a pint. The Vulcan is not just a part of history, it is history and it deserves to be saved.

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