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15

with the tools supplied, a 5 lb hammer and a driver, then I gave it to the washers for scrubbing. I chased that little barrel all over the place till I managed and was I cold, just about frozen. The coopers' shop had no window frames, just two large openings. The head cooper had been watching me from there, so he spoke to the foreman about my being out in the cold; I was then transferred to the shop which had no electric lighting, only gas jets without mantles and candles only used during darkness. My first cask was a 1/4 barrel for repair each cooper in turn would teach me they had of course their own work to do. They had to repair two barrels per day and a bit. Within the first week the brewer sent for the other apprentice and myself, he wanted us to go to the evening classes for coopers at Tynecastle. The firm paid our travelling fares and night-school fees. In these days there were no buses, so we both travelled by tram to Musselburgh, then the train to Edinburgh, then the tram from Princes Street out to Tynecastle. Every year we got full marks, theory 100%, practical excellent. When the brewer saw these reports he was delighted and gifted both of us on pay day with an envelope containing 2. Shortly after the First World War, a new brewer came to Fowler, namely Mr J. D. Ross who was a real go-ahead person, very strict yet very fair. It was through his foresight that the firm were made aware that there was a market for bottling strong ale. A small bottling plant was installed, employing about twelve girls to bottle it. This being the first strong ale to go on the market in Britain, it was a huge success with the public. Strong ale was widely advertised in the press, with slogans such as "Hit for a thorough-bred", or "Makes weak men stronger", another slogan was "Famous since the 45" (rebellion). The demand by the public for wee heavies was so great that at a board meeting of directors, he persuaded them to build a new modern bottling hall, which when completed was the most modern in the country, and able to keep up demand all over Scotland. A new fleet of lorries was purchased, Leylands and Bedfords which delivered all over Scotland, the far north and south.
Around 1961 along came the big concerns, all small breweries were being bought over. Eventually Fowler's was bought over by a Canadian from United Caledonian, which eventually went to Tennents. All the bottling machines were dismantled and transferred to Tennents Brewery.
In all of my 37 years as a cooper with Fowler, not one modern machine was installed in the cooperage; every job was done by hand, brute strength and muscle. As a matter of interest, all oak shavings were collected in sacks. A firm would collect these every Saturday taking them to Port Seton where they were used for smoking kippers. At the end of each month we received a box of kippers which were evenly distributed.
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