The Roots in Ye Cracke

Callum Ruddock

As we enter through the side door my dad opens with his usual fact, “Your great grandmother used to scrub the step outside this pub. Lived next door in a row of terraced houses that have of course been since knocked down.”

“Lots of history in these parts” replies an obviously disinterested barmaid.

“Your grandmother was born here too, in a room roughly level with that air-conditioning unit.”

“I think you’ve told me that before Dad. Are we having a drink or what?”

Ye Cracke of Rice Street, Liverpool. A XIXth Century pub that, in the words of the Landlady, “even Scousers struggle to find”; perfect for those who don’t mind their ale house a little time-worn or grotty. Defined as much by its politics as by its history, a picture of Prince Andrew scratched with the word ‘nonce’ greets us, the woosh of the coffee machine and the crescendo of a perfectly poured Guinness announces us. Like something out of my father’s own playbook. Acutely left wing.

We chat for a while with a girl who works behind the covid safe, Perspex wrapped bar. She tells us about the strange people that come in and when to avoid the crowds. About the ceremonious weekly changing of the ales that is so lauded by its regulars that it satisfies as an alternative to the Trooping the Colour. How the pub’s XIXth century “war room” got its name, added to help quench the thirst of men returned from the Boer War separately to avoid boring others with their war stories, filled with Wolverhampton fans now.

By its front door sit its “handbag ladies”, three regulars who I’m told are so fundamental to the pub’s being that they have access to their own pub tv remotes. The Landlady next door rolls her eyes at the football crowd who cheer another goal. She looks as if she has lived her life in her drink. Someone who has mastered the art of good pub craft, harmony between punters culminating in the right ‘vibe’. The pub staff clearly get on like a family. I am surprised by the age gap between them. Urban pubs don’t tend to hire a blend of 20 somethings mixed with pensioners. A bit like your grandad and your younger cousin both liking Stormzy.

We soon start on drunken nonsense. Do bald men shampoo or moisturise their patch? What actually is a cast-conditioned ale? Interrupted again by another round of cheering and an even louder shush. It takes a stern landlady to navigate a business through covid, especially one that did not pivot to takeout food or open as a community corner shop.

It was a core following that kept Ye Cracke alive, though I am uncertain if this would stretch to include me. I’d be nervous to order from the bar fridge at the back and I don’t understand why my stool is so tall. 

By 3pm the pub is filling up and there is talk of live music, a regular feature in the pub’s social life. Having hosted John Lennon’s son a few weeks back, a quick browse of google reviews provides a laugh. “He looks like that Lennon fellow doesn't he... fine boozer, will have to pop back in again soon” and “The Ye Cracke Pub is easy to locate along Rice Street”. High praise indeed.

The barmaid addresses me directly now.

“The ball in the valve thing keeps dropping.”

Disappearing into the floor, she emerges moments later to show off her bruised hand and continue to pour my pint. We drank three beers:

·       Guinness – tastes like Guinness.

·       Birrificio Angelo Portetti – a smooth, almost creamy, Italian lager with a soft bitter head and malty Italian aftertaste.

·       Wainwright – a golden ale with lime – closer to a bitter.

They take my card though there a sign is up that read ‘credit machine f----ed’. Three men in their twenties come into the pub wearing 1960s suits. “John Lennon wannabees, they’re in here all the time” said the girl with the nipped hand. Typically, pubs dress up to suit their surroundings, not the other way around.

As is the way with many things in Liverpool, Ye Cracke must face up to its mandatory ‘the Beatles were ere’ story. John Lennon used to drink here, though I challenge anyone to find me a pub where he didn’t, and his shortly lived band the Dissenters was formed here, over a pint of Poretti - probably. Good things are always started in British pubs. Relationships. Riots. Cambridges now infamous Arm chip corporation.

But all this flagellation annoys me. We mustn’t overlook Ye Cracke’s biggest contribution to history: Thomas Cecil Gray and John Halton conceived the techniques described in their 1946 book A Milestone in Anaesthesia while in the pub, over a pint of Poretti too–probably.

I get the sense that the overall interior scruff is a smart bit of branding. Something later confirmed by my grandmother who tells me that throughout the 1960s Ye Cracke was known as quaint and in many ways insignificant, just another spot with a red carpeted floor, tiny lamps, and a darts board. The toilets smell and are lacking. I also enjoy a sign which states ‘coming soon – Pims’.
All in all – a good pub.

Chargé d'affaires - Depuis 2020