As Dave and I walked through the doors of the highly recommended Aberdeen Grill, all eyes in the Scottish pub, turned in unison to me. You know the kind of scene where fifty or so folk become instantly silent and stare as though an entire bouquet of broccoli has taken residence betwixt your teeth. Or possibly the fact you have forgotten to wear pants.
The fascinating thing about the group of patrons at The Grill in the heart of Aberdeen, with their laser like focus burning a hole in my forehead, was the fact that each and every one was male.
“I don’t think I’m supposed to be here” I whispered out of the side of mouth, casually wiping my lips to ensure an entire vegetable garden hadn’t taken seed on my face.
” Of course you are supposed to be here ” quipped the ever loving, husband as he pulled me through the narrow, wee pub jammed with an after work crowd, toward the bar. As the gentleman resuscitated themselves with gulps of scotch and beer after the initial shock of seeing me, the conversation resumed at previous decibel levels suitable in a Scottish drinking establishment.
I rubbed my hand over my backside doing a precautionary safety check that indeed my pants were attached and had not gone running down the streets of Aberdeen without me.
Doing my best to hide behind my overly confident spouse as the pints of beer came happily chugging out of bronze taps, I gazed about the room systematically. 72 men and not a single woman. Anywhere.
Once poured, I began guzzling my beer as though I had wandered the dunes of the Sahara rather than the nearby crypts of the Kirk of St Nicholas prior to arrival.
I proceeded to declare the obvious. “There is not another woman here!”
“Are you sure? ” replied my lets-not-jump-to-conclusions spouse.
“Well unless they are under the floorboards I think I have cornered the market on being the only lady in this pub!”
At that moment, a woman magically appeared behind the bar. Looking as though she had just returned from her meal break, I practically dove over the giant mahogany counter with arms outstretched. Feeling somewhat protected by the furniture larger than the actual floor space, she smiled and cocked her head at me as one might look pitifully at an injured animal.
“Can ladies be in this bar? ” I asked in a much too loud voice that caused a group of men to this time look at Dave as if to offer their sympathy for being saddled with a woman clearly on the edge of sanity.
“Well of course ladies are allowed. I’m here aren’t I? Last time i checked I was a woman!” She laughed and stood smiling at me as though she might pat my head like that of a three year old.
“But there aren’t any other women. I just wondered if I was allowed to be here.”
Passing me a yellowed news clipping covered in plastic that had seen more than a splash of ale and scotch in it’s day, we began to read the tale of ‘No Women Allowed in The Grill of Aberdeen’.
History of Aberdeen’s The Grill
Operating as a restaurant in 1870, The Grill boasted the latest luxuries of both a “billiard saloon” and “electric light”. In 1925 the restaurant was purchased by John Innes and refurbished in much the state you will find it today.
The long mahogany bar counter, which I attempted to high jump, albeit unsuccessfully, had to be thrust in the front windows so gigantic was it’s size. The story, or legend, tells of the mammoth structure needing to be pulled out and spun around after first finding it’s way into The Grill backwards!
I bet the supervisor on the job scene took some flack for that.
After a 7 month renovation Innes hung a sign on the window stating ‘No Ladies Please’. The policy stayed firmly in place for 50 years, despite an uninvited visit to The Grill in 1973 from a large number of disgruntled female delegates attending the Scottish Trades Union Congress in Aberdeen. The removal of the ladies at the hands of the police made national headlines according to the Grill’s website.
In 1975 women were finally served in The Grill with the passing of the Sex Discrimination Act in 1975.
I found it particularly interesting that a ladies toilet was not installed until 1998. We meandered in 16 years later and it seemed quite clear the official policy may have changed, but the ladies, at least on that spring day, were not flocking to The Grill. Perhaps down the block there is a Scottish pub with a sign that says “No Gents Allowed”
Have you ever found yourself with all eyes on you? Did you have a broccoli tree in your teeth by chance?