With Sunday Drinking Act and associated problems in the early part of the 20th century, illegal drinking dens, shebeens, became common. Cardiff was famous for them and there were certain streets that were more infamous than famous. Infamous means ‘ill fame’ from Latin, and they certainly were in the streets named Mary Ann and Stanley.
One certain house, one certain man, had been arrested more times than others for shebeening. The year’s 1912, and it looks like David Lloyd-George MP is being set up by a local. It was arranged that he visit that man’s shebeen at a certain time. It also appears that the police were going to visit that house at exactly the same time. Had someone ‘grassed’ on him? On the day that Lloyd-George MP was to visit on a fact finding trip (strictly incognito) he turned up just 15 minutes late, which was very fortunate for him. As his cab turned into the street, coming out of it was a horse drawn police van loaded with prisoners and barrels of beer, seized from the very shabeen that the future prime minister was about to enter. He went in.
The police van had only just left but already more illicit barrels of beer were swiftly being lifted over the yard wall and into the house ready for the queues of thirsty customers, including Lloyd George. After witnessing the goings-on, he left and visited other Mary Ann Street premises.
A quarter of an hour earlier and it would have been Lloyd George standing in the Cardiff courts. The drinkers who had been arrested were fined 40/- (£2) or one month in prison. The owner was fined £50, a massive sum at the time.
Could that Cardiff visit have changed the course of history?