I remember meeting Uncle Sam once on a visit to London. He was a big, blustery man – as I recall – owner of several pubs, and my grandmother’s youngest brother: hence, my mother’s uncle and my great uncle.
But I had never been to his famous – or notorious – pub in London’s east end until we met my “cousin” Amy there for a drink while visiting London this week.
I know how Amy and I are related – her mother and my mother were first cousins – but I am not sure what to call that. In any case, we first met a couple of years ago and have managed to stay in contact. She suggested going for a drink at Sam’s former pub – the Blind Beggar, down the street from the Whitechapel Underground station.
When I was a kid spending summers in London, I would come to Whitechapel with my aunts to visit various shops in this very Jewish neighborhood. Now, every storefront is Muslim-owned. We had a great dinner at a Pakistani restaurant nearby, the waiter apologized for the slow service because the cooks were just breaking fast during Ramadan.
The Blind Beggar is just on the edge of the area. It is not upscale but quite a nice place. You can see that the menu is not traditional pub fare,
although the beer selection seemed to be.
Besides my own memories, the place has an interesting history. It is named for Henry de Montfort, a son of Simon de Montfort, who lost his sight in the Battle of Evesham in 1265. His father, Simon, had led a rebellion against the king — he was killed in that same battle — and is credited with helping limit the power of the king. And that’s where the name the Blind Beggar comes from.
It was, according to the history, the first pub to serve modern brown ale – in 1654 – and was the site of a speech by William Booth, in 1865, that led to the founding of the Salvation Army. More recently, in the 1960’s, a mob shooting took place here.
It ‘s nice to have at least a little bit of that history in your background.