Tuesday, 17 March 2015

A new cocktail – the McGonigles – gin and public health anyone?

Posted by Avril Rhodes

I went to Stockton High Street last Saturday (bear with me, this gets more exciting) and a vision opened before my eyes. A new business has opened (only to be applauded in the High Street which has been struggling for years despite the Herculean efforts of the Council) which is called Dr M’Gonigle’s Emporium. Now, Dr M’Gonigle (or more commonly McGonigle depending on where you look) is becoming an increasingly well- known Medical Officer of Health of Stockton, during the inter-war years, who tirelessly championed population health for local people, especially those who were feeling the effects of low income in general. He made compelling links between poverty and ill health. Despite this his name has been used for the branding of a pub – yes, a pub! Am I the only one who sees this as incongruous?

What Pub? Website, which operates for CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale) proudly declares…..

“About the Pub

Opened Dec 2014 and named after Dr George Cuthbert Mura M'Gonigle who fought hard to maintain the health of the poor people of Stockton. A pleasant open plan bar offering big screen TV and serving up to four real ales and a cider.”

The external décor made it absolutely clear that customers and passers-by alike were to see a link between the naming of the pub and the image of the great man himself, adapting an image of the good doctor that is frequently used in tributes to his work, see picture left, as a motif.

When I next down four pints of real ale and a cider, I shall of course be thinking about my health and my disposable income to enable me to cruise along the bar taps instead of settling down to a plate of healthy food.

This new development is sad to the point of being tear-jerking. Stockton High Street is at the end of a major refurbishment, one of many over the years to try and breathe new life into what was once a proud shopping centre of choice and indeed, branded the widest High Street in the UK. The latest work is impressive, but still can’t disguise that there are far too many voids, leaving too few shops attracting too few customers. I hope I’m proved wrong and that the current refurbishment will have the desired effect. At a time when there is much debate about licensing and public health, and the effect on drinking patterns, how, on top of the controversy did this strange name slip through the Local Authority’s scrutiny?

This, dear audience, is like opening a tobacconists named after Sir Richard Doll, who discovered the link between smoking and (ill) health. It really is, but then Dr McGonigle smoked and died young, but at least this was before the work of Doll was completed and published. Amber Taverns who own the establishment cannot claim ignorance.

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