From Guv’nor to Gloversville

Servicing Gloversville and an adjacent town in Fulton County, NY the Leader-Herald of 1957 had an interesting story on an English immigrant who formerly managed a pub, the Queen’s Head in London. While its location was not specified, the Queen’s Head of 2019 in Piccadilly is almost certainly the same place. It is on Denman Street, part of the theatre district. The pub is venerable and claims roots to 1736 (see website).

Thomas Flanagan was 60 and followed his son and daughter-in-law to America after an eventful career in pub-keeping and before that, the soldiery. He was wounded in the first war, recovered and took up tenanting as an occupation. A ex-soldier’s sang froid came in handy during the Blitz and V-2 attacks. Flanagan described vividly how windows and door were regularly blown out – once even the roof – but the pub never ceasing trading.

Still, he and the QH were lucky: five pubs nearby were put out of business (“demolished”) due to German bombs and rockets. Flanagan, pictured in the account and likened by the journalist to a Fred Astaire, took it all in stride and remembered fondly the Americans he had met during the war.

His account runs against conventional wisdom in a couple of respects. He states the soldiers had no trouble accustoming to English beer, infamously served “warm” or at least less icy than American beer. Still, he noted that since the war many London pubs sold chilled beer, an influence he said of WW II G.I.s.

Also, he stated London pubs served better food than American bars. He probably had in mind the typical roadside or small town American tavern, bare bones at the time compared to the big city pub-restaurant, but it’s still an interesting comment.

The worldly Cockney had no trouble blending into life in small-town America, taking a job in a hospital cafeteria. The smooth transition wasn’t a surprise given his association with American soldiers during the war, one he evidently enjoyed.

Judging by the article, he was what I would call the pre-1960s type of English person, mild in temperament and lacking the confessional tendency that frequently (not invariably) characterizes public opinion throughout the West today. I can just picture him: collected manner, wry smile, ready with a quip. He was probably an exemplary landlord, and held the job long enough certainly. People like a change though, or finally, and the New World provided that.

Although I can’t be sure, Fulton County in the 1950s may have provided something of a complementary picture to Albion. It was settled by New England Puritans (not the Dutch or French, for example), themselves of southern English origin of course. The area likely retained its early character well into the 20th century due to its isolated location in the southern Adirondack hills.

Anyway, he was sympa with what he found. I wonder what became of Mr. Flanagan, and whether he ever returned to London, and the Queen’s Head.

Note re image: the image above is the restaurant on the upper story of the Queen’s Arms, Denman Street, London. Source: Trip Advisor’s description of the pub. (Most inviting judging by the accounts). All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner. Used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

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