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50 years ago in Salford: Irish ‘tinkers’ cause mayhem in Chapel Street pub fight

The negative adjective ‘tinker’ – for Irish travellers – is very rarely used in these modern times, however a court case in October 1965 at Salford Magistrates Court heard the word used liberally to describe a full blown pub brawl.

The newspaper stated that many Salford publicans had refused to serve a mass influx of Irish ‘tinkers’, because of the trouble that they caused, but the wily lot devised a new strategy by going in singly and then congregating together.

The landlord of the Brown Bull Hotel, at the corner of Chapel Street and New Bailey Street, found this out to his horror when a vicious brawl erupted between warring parties.

The history of the pub can be traced back to 1841, when it was listed among the area’s taverns in the Pigot & Slater Directory of Manchester and Salford.

It was a popular city-centre boozer, frequented in the 60s and 70s by the likes of Manchester United legend George Best.

The former Brown Bull Hotel as it is today - © Google

The former Brown Bull Hotel as it is today –  Google Street View

But 1965’s restrictive drinking hours caused trouble to spark when the landlord called time at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon.

Just minutes after he’d laid towels over the hand pumps, pandemonium broke out.

Salford Magistrates Court heard that one man, Simon O’ Donnell, was so infuriated at not being able to get any more beer that he launched his pint pot over the bar, smashing the glass frontage and several optics.

Not be outdone, O’Donnell’s wife Bridget joined in, throwing heavy ashtrays and pint glasses around the pub.

Things turned nasty when Simon smashed his glass over the head of a woman called Eileen Toohey so hard that she needed six stitches in the wound.

He then picked up a stool to hit her with, but Toohey’s boyfriend Charles Cawley came to her rescue and blocked O’Donnell’s path.

Instead the enraged Irishman threw the bar stool through the pub window. A man named Martin Heaney grabbed Cawley and held him back while O’ Donnell smashed a pint pot and jabbed him several times in the face with it, causing six deep cuts which needed stitches.

Finally the police were called to stop this carnage and all parties ran out of the pub apart from the wounded and injured who lay on the pub floor.

O’ Donnell and Heaney were quickly apprehended nearby by a policeman – who stated they all started shouting at him at once and he couldn’t understand a word.

They were taken to the Crescent Police Station for questioning but promptly fell into a drunken stupor.

GMP officer blackwhite public phone

© Greater Manchester Police

Detective Sergeant Wright told the court that when arrived the pub was “in a bit of a shambles” – the understatement of the year surely.

O’ Donnell was sentenced to six months imprisonment for wounding and causing £20 worth of damage to the pub.

His wife was fined £10 and ordered to pay £20 damages whilst Heaney was charged with being drunk and disorderly and fined £3.

All three were reported to be living in a house in Elizabeth Street, Cheetham Hill for which they apparently lived rent free.

The area of Chapel Street is a lot quieter these days.

The Brown Bull has closed down, replaced by a convenience store, while other nearby boozers such as The Albert Vaults, The Griffin, Red Lion and Peel Park Inn have all been demolished while the area undergoes huge gentrification.

With this in mind, pub brawls as violent as the one above will hopefully be a thing of the past.

Main image by Salford Pubs of the 70s via Flickr

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SalfordOnline.com's Local History Editor and Senior Reporter.