“Our Hero” – Gallantry, local history and real ale!
Halton has many aspects that make it unique. In terms of military history, 3 people born in Halton have been awarded the Victoria Cross (VC). This is the highest award of the UK honours system for gallantry “in the face of the enemy”. One was in the Army, one in the Navy and one in the Royal Flying Corps (the pre cursor to the Royal Air Force).
A campaign has been ongoing to see these local heroes honoured with statues in their home towns to represent not just the fallen but all those who have fought for their country.
- Thomas Jones a Cheshire soldier earned his VC in World War 1 and is now commemorated by a statue in Runcorn's Memorial Gardens.
- Thomas Wilkinson earned his VC as a sailor in action off Malaya in World War 2 – the campaign to build a statue in West Bank, Widnes in his name is due to start in 2018.
However there is an ongoing campaign to build a statue for Sergeant Thomas Mottershead VC DCM in Victoria Park in Widnes. This campaign is well underway with a statue due to be erected in Victoria Park in 2018. His award of the VC arose from events on the Western Front in 1917 when flying a FE2d biplane and shot down, despite burns that eventually killed him, his coolness saved the life of his observer. The campaigns facebook page gives further detail.
Interesting military and local history...but where does real ale come in? The link is Norton Brewery, a microbrewery opened in the grounds of Norton Priory in 2011. Norton produce 3 regular real ales most commonly seen in bottled form – Priory Gold, Priory Ale and Priory Velvet. The unique thing about Norton is that it is a part of Halton Community Services. The ethos is that those who would normally attend day centres are given the opportunity to have a rewarding and varied day contributing to the success of the brewery. Over 145 adults with a learning disability work at the brewery, cafe and within the Priory. It is a ground breaking success and truly innovative. In this sense it is very much a community brewery.
In my capacity as Treasurer for the Sergeant Thomas Mottershead VC Statue appeal and as Chair of the Halton CAMRA branch it occurred to me these two very different interests really could and should combine! The statue appeal committee at my instigation met with the brewery and it was agreed that a real ale should be brewed in honour of Sgt Mottershead VC DCM and be brewed by Norton Brewery.
Norton Brewing managed to locate an authentic World War 1 time brewing recipe from a London based brewery and have started production of a real ale named “Our Hero” based on this. History brought to drinkable life!! Quite possibly this beer will taste like those drunk by many service men before embarking for danger on the Western front.
On 25th July 2017, the appeal, brewers and Mayor and Mayoress of Halton met at Norton Brewery to launch “Our hero”. Current plans are that “Our Hero” will be available towards the end of August from
- The Premier (Wetherspoons) - Widnes
- Ferry Boat (Wetherspoons) - Runcorn
- Prospect – Weston Village
- Royal Oak – Weston Village
Expectations of a quality real ale are high and although too early to say this - maybe a second brew will be made!
For those who get to taste “Our Hero” – a chance to reflect both on those brave service personnel drawn from all communities who gave their lives for us in the “Great War” and also to appreciate the fruits produced from a truly community based brewery. We will raise a glass to that!
David Gray - Branch Chairman