The minutes of the Cherry Brandy Club are well worth reading as they provide an overview, albeit from a rather narrow angle, of the changes that took place in Birmingham over the 70 years of the Club’s existence. The Club started because three friends decided one Boxing Day in the early 1890s to go for a walk from Augustus Road in Edgbaston to the New Rose and Crown Inn in Rubery. They had lunch there and returned by train to New Street Station and then by the old Harborne line to Edgbaston.
The early records are unsure whether the impulse for the walk arose from the mere love of exercise or from “the desire to shake off the feeling of lethargy induced by a too conscientious surrender to the spirit of the great Christian festival”. Whatever the reason, the walk became a regular feature of Boxing Day. Within a few years, there were two significant features introduced. One was that a club was formed and minutes written, the second was that one of the members suggested, after a particularly cold walk, that a glass of Cherry Brandy would not come amiss. This was acclaimed by those present, the Club was named the Cherry Brandy Club and Cherry Brandy became “the eponymous liquor” and was drunk every year except one.One interesting fact which emerges from the minutes is that in the early days of the Club, if Christmas Day fell on a Sunday, the festivities were postponed until the Monday and the walk took place on the Tuesday. This, of course, reflects the then observance of Sunday as a day of worship and not one for celebrating Christmas.
The membership of the Club was open to the direct descendants of the original members, their spouses and, provided an undertaking was given to the Club to marry within the year, fiancés and fiancées of members. These undertakings once given were never broken! Children were admitted to membership at age 13, guests were welcome as were dogs whose names were inscribed in the minutes.Initially, the route of the walk, which was the same every year, was through fields but gradually the route became more built-up as Birmingham expanded until, by the beginning of World War 2, it was no longer a country walk. The decision was therefore made after the War to change the route so that it was circular, starting and ending at the Rose and Crown, the original destination. In the early 1960s it was felt that the route needed to be changed again, as the M5 cut across it. A working party was formed to pioneer a new route but this was never adopted. By the mid-1960s there was no longer a significant number of members based in or near Birmingham and so the Club wound itself up.
Following each walk, the President would make a speech proposing the health of the Club and the Vice-President would reply and their speeches are summarised in the minutes.
As I have said, the minutes do reflect the changes and events which took place during the period of the Club’s existence. These are too many and varied to record them all in this paper, but it is well worth skimming through the minutes. The most notable events recorded are, of course, the two World Wars and the privations these imposed. The minutes record the names of the members who served in the armed forces, those who were killed in action and those who were PoWs. They also record that in 1943, it was impossible to acquire a supply of the eponymous liquor, the only year when this was not drunk.
Other notable events included the construction of the tram route from Rubery to Birmingham City centre, a confrontation with what were called the “newly-formed Baden Powell Scouts”, the first return to Edgbaston by motor car and, following the change of route, the regular arrival at the start point of the members by car and the attendance at lunch by members who had not walked. (But no one could become a member who had not walked!) .
The writer of this summary, John Osler who became a member at age 13 in 1950 and who was the last secretary of the Club, hopes that it will stimulate those who are interested in the changing world over the period from 1890 to 1965 to look through the minutes. They do repay study.