And there he is - a steaming , soggy mass of soot and water covering him from head to toe . march 1962. TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com

By Mark McConville

 

AMUSING images have revealed the age-old tradition of Cooper apprentices ‘passing out’ by being put into a cask of their own making and covered in liquids.

With shouts from the other coopers and groans from Vernon , the barrel is rolled across the brewery floor . March 1962.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com

 

The funny pictures show one apprentice in the barrel being well and truly anointed with the concoctions with the aid of a mop during their ceremony at Pimlico, another being thrown high into the air by his fellow Coopers and another crouching inside the barrel he made before the ceremony gets underway.

George K Cassidy aged 21 of Islington standing in his barrel has a welcome pint after the tossing the Cooper ceremony. 13 January 1961.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com

 

Other striking shots show an apprentice bracing himself against the sides as his friends roll the barrel, another smiling as oily soot, paints, beer, swill and sawdust are thrown over him and one at the end of his initiation ceremony, now considered fully-fledged, being lifted from his barrel covered in soot, whitewash, sawdust and shavings.

Apprentice Robert Leece is thrown high in the air by his fellow Coopers. 2 December 1955.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com

 

Since the days of Queen Elizabeth I an apprentice in the cooperage trade, on completing his apprenticeship, has been bundled into a cask of his own making and anointed with a glutinous mess of soot, wood ash and water by his fellow Coopers.

A befraggled apprentice emerges from the barrel after the ceremony . August 1955.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com

 

He is then taken from the cask and thrown high into the air to the accompaniment of cheers and banging of cans by his fellow workers. After this he is presented with his indentures making him a fully fledged Cooper.

Ronald Barham in the barrel is well and truly anointed with the concoctions with the aid of a mop during their ceremony at Pimlico today. 1 September 1950.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com

 

These initiations took place at breweries all across the country including Whitbread’s brewery in Chiswell Street, City.

Cooper Barham, combs the oil out of his hair with a rather outsize comb after being rolled in the 54 gallon hogshead of ink oil and soot . 1 September 1950.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com

 

The last apprentice Cooper to be ”trussed” there in these photographs was James Pettengell, 21, from Bromley, Kent, who true to tradition comes from a family of Coopers,

Crouching inside the barrel which he has made, the new Cooper keeps his head out of the way as his brother Cooper hammer on the last hoops. in the background a large audience, including the new Cooper’s family and Mr Sanders Watney , a director of the brewery where the ceremony is taking place, watch the proceedings with fascination. 1950.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com

 

His brother George, 31, who also works at Whitbreads, helped with his training. The training of apprentices has now ended at Whitbread’s with the decline in the use of wooden casks following the introduction of metal barrels for beer.

COOPER End of Apprenticeship initiation ceremony Vernon , out of the barrel March 1962.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com

 

The ”trussing the Cooper” ceremony had been repeated many times since the brewery was built in the mid 18th century.

Into the sack and up he goes. The bumping at Vernons 21st birthday will hardly be as vigourous as this – he hopes. March 1962.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com

 

A cooper is a person trained to make wooden casks, barrels, vats, buckets, tubs, troughs and other staved containers, from timber that was usually heated or steamed to make it pliable.

Launching a new Cooper is not quite such a delicate business is launching a new ship. Instead of champagne on the bows, he gets oily soot, paints, beer, swill and sawdust thrown over him, washed down with a nice douche of cold water by his brother Coopers. And all the while he stands imprisoned inside a barrel of his own making – the first he has completed at the end of his 6 1/2 years’ Apprenticeship. 1950.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com

 

 

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