Denis Compton

Of all the summer sounds of my suburban childhood – the spine tingling theme to “Dick Barton – Special Agent”, the clack of leather against willow as the brylcreemed Denis Compton showed the rest of the world how to play cricket – the one I most clearly remember is the woman next door constantly asking me if I wanted a Ginger Beer Plant. “Do you want to make some ginger beer, ducks?”

Jubbly Orange drink

A tetrahedron is a polyhedron composed of four triangular faces, three of which meet at each corner or vertex. It has six edges and four vertices. The tetrahedron is the simplest of all the ordinary convex polyhedra and the only one that has fewer than 5 faces. The tetrahedron is the three-dimensional case of the more general concept of a Euclidean simplex. Got it now?

This was a time long before canned soft drinks, when the only beverage choice came in large screw-top bottles containing such unlikely brews as Dandelion and Burdock, Cream Soda and Sasparilla, or the new and popular Jubbly Orange Drink in its strange Tetrahedron waxed cardboard carton.

Those of us who remember the catchy “Lovely Jubbly Orange Drink” advertising jingle will also remember that it was possible to buy Jubbly frozen into a large pyramid shaped ice lolly. It cost 4d against 3d for the unfrozen drink. Lovely… er, Jubbly!

ginger beer

Then there was Ginger Beer. The thing about Ginger Beer 1950’s style is you could make it at home, store under the stairs in any of those large bottles that were always knocking about and then – oh wonder – find yourself at the end of the process with twice as much of the essential Ginger Beer brewing mix as you started with. This of course resulted in the inevitable non-stop drone of friends asking if you wanted a jam jar full of brown sludge!

Ginger Beer has long been associated with popular children’s characters like Richmal Crompton’s ‘Just William’…

the famous five

Surprisingly many people think that the Famous Five had ‘lashings of ginger-beer’ but as Miss Pepper of the Enid Blyton Society has clearly shown although there are plenty of ‘lashings’ in the books – snakes, boiled eggs, treacle and so on there are absolutely no lashings of ginger-beer. What a swiz!

Just William

“Having now completely recovered from the sensations caused by the merry-go-round, (William) purchased a large bag of pop-corn and stood leaning against a tent-pole till he had consumed it. Then he purchased two sticks of nougat and with it drank two bottles of ginger-beer. The remaining 4d. was spent upon a large packet of a red sticky mixture called Canadian Delight.”

‘Just William’, by Richmal Crompton

…or Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’, Julian, Dick, Anne and George (Georgina) plus Timmy the Dog, who seemed to exist on the stuff…

‘I must say ginger beer is a gorgeous drink – it seems to go with everything.’

Julian in ‘Five Run Away Together’ by Enid Blyton

Suspecting that there are people anxious to brew some Ginger Beer for themselves or want something for the kids to do over the summer holiday here is an old style recipe for making that all important ‘starter’, the legendary Ginger Beer Plant. Stand well back!

Ginger Beer Plant

  • Put 2 ozs of Brewer’s Yeast into a jam jar and add half a pint of cold water, two level teaspoons of sugar and 2 level teaspoonfuls of ground ginger.
  • Cover with a light cloth and place under the stairs.
  • Feed each day with 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of ground ginger.
  • After about 7-10 days strain the mix through a clean muslin or fine household sieve. Keep the sediment. Take the remaining liquid, add the juice of 2 lemons, 1 Ib of granulated sugar and 1 pint of boiling water.
  • Stir the liquid until the sugar has dissolved then add cold water to bring it up to 1 gallon.
  • Bottle the liquid, filling each bottle to about 3 inches from the top. Do not stand the bottles directly onto a stone floor. (Why?) After about two hours lightly cork the bottles. After about 7-10 days the ginger beer will be ready to drink
  • Divide the sediment in the muslin in half and put into 2 separate jam jars. This is your Ginger Beer Plant starter. Start the recipe again with half a pint of cold water.
  • Give the other half of the Ginger Beer sediment to a friend with a copy of the recipe and a reminder to start off with half a pint of cold water.


Dick Barton poster


“Look out sir! It’s Manoel Garcia – and he’s got a gun!” BANG! BANG!

“That was close, sir!”

“But not close enough, Snowy! You can’t have me like that, Garcia, you swine! Take that!” POW! BOP!

“Oh, well done sir! You’ve knocked him out cold!”

“No more than he deserves – the perisher!”


Video of “Devil’s Gallop”

By Charles Williams, the main theme for ‘Dick Barton – Special Agent’ – BBC Light Programme between 7 October 1946 and 30 March 1951


— from Martyn Day