Wigan CAMRA Branch was formed on 29th July 1985.
However it started its life as part of South Lancashire Branch, which was set up in 1974 by the then Area Organiser, John Robinson of Billinge – who is still an active member of CAMRA.
John, inspired by articles by Richard Boston of the Guardian newspaper, decided to take local action by advertising an inaugural meeting. “The name of South Lancashire was chosen for obvious reasons as local government had not yet reorganised and the “bastard” counties of Greater Manchester and Merseyside did not exist” said John.
Liverpool Branch had been formed nine days earlier, but to the North, and Dave Marsden had formed a branch in Preston. The South Lancashire Branch included Wigan, St. Helens and all outlying areas.
The inaugural meeting of the South Lancashire Branch was held on Sunday 27th January 1974 at the Bulls Head in Lowton (sadly now boarded up) which was chosen because it was central to the area and had Tetley (or more probably Walkers) on handpump. As John said at the time “ I got plenty of stick for choosing a “Big 6” pub but my reasoning was that good Tetleys (Walkers) had a real following at the time and if we were going to spread the message we needed to be credible”.
“We are dedicated to the preservation of the beer we used to drink and are fed up with up with filtered, pressurised keg beer that most ups are serving today”
As John worked in St. Helens, as a lecturer at St.Helens College of Technology at the time, the St. Helens Reporter took up the story and it is interesting to hear what a spokesman for “Greenall Whitley” – who were then still brewing in St. Helens had to say.
“We find this ginger group very interesting, very curious, but slightly misled. A lot of beer has dropped in specific gravity, but the difference is so small it is impossible to tell. What is more, Greenall Whitley do not see “The Campaign for Real Ale”as a threat to their prosperity”
A brewery spokesman further added “I think them as a harmless group of cranks – discussing the merits of beer is a nice way of passing the time, and you can always have a few refreshing pints while you’re doing it.”
Monday 29th July 1985: “All good things must come to an end and after eleven years so did CAMRA South Lancashire Branch. At a meeting held at the Railway in Leigh, chaired by our very own Pete Marsh, who was Greater Manchester Regional Director at the time, the former branch was split into Wigan and South East Lancashire branches – both of which are still active today.
Article by : Pete Marsh (with acknowledgement to John Robinson)