THERE is currently a rock band with its origins in Glasgow which is gaining more followers by the day, even though it has the rather strange name The Temperance Movement.

The band’s founder and lead singer, Phil Campbell, wanted a name like Creedence Clearwater Revival which would be memorable without signifying much, and is at pains to assure fans that none of the band are teetotallers.

Having been asked to explain what the original temperance movement was, your columnist listened again to some of the band’s music and can heartily endorse the views of their fans that this is a real blues ‘n’ rock band on the up and up.

The original temperance movement, by contrast, is a phenomenon of history that has come and largely gone. Scotland may think it has a drink problem now, but in the early days of the 19th century, this country was awash with booze and people drank like there was no tomorrow.

From the highest in the land to the humblest ploughman, drink was an integral part of everyday life. The arrival of mass-produced whisky in the 18th century had been a catalyst for the increase in drinking, as prior to that claret and ale had been Scotland’s main two sources of alcohol.

When the duty on whisky was more than halved in 1822, consumption soared, and by the end of that decade, Scottish adults were on an average consuming three a half gallons of spirits per year – more than half a pint per week, and mostly whisky.

A drinking culture had also evolved, which made it seem manly to “hold your drink” while a boys’ introduction to working life was traditionally to sink his first week’s wages into a drinking session for himself and his workmates.

There is little doubt that men lost their jobs and their freedom through drink, and families suffered accordingly. Court records of the time show a huge increase in alcohol-related crime where prosecutors and defence lawyers alike would use the phrase “having drink taken” as an excuse for misbehaviour – it was in common use until recently in courts across the land.

The effects on the working class of drink-related absences alarmed managers and owners of mines and mills, and when news arrived in Scotland of the formation of temperance societies in the USA, it was only a matter of time before the banner of abstinence was flown.

Two remarkable men came to dominate the temperance scene in Scotland, though it was two women, Miss Allan and Miss Graham, who established the first formal temperance society in Scotland in Maryhill in Glasgow on October 1, 1829, inspired no doubt by the formation of the first such society in the UK in Belfast earlier that year – it started with the Rev. John Edgar throwing his whisky out of the window. Sadly nothing much else is known about these two undoubtedly redoubtable ladies, and by the following year John Dunlop and William Collins had come to the fore.

Dunlop was a lawyer trained in Glasgow and Edinburgh whose family had an estate in Dunbartonshire. He also married well, the very wealthy Janet Napier Dunsmore giving him the funds to carry out his philanthropic work in their home town of Greenock.

Dunlop, who was a committed Christian, was at first not for complete abstention – he wanted people merely to avoid “ardent spirits” such as whisky. He probably realised that people in those days drank beer like water because their water supplies were so often contaminated.

In 1829, Dunlop teamed up with Collins, a publisher who would go on to print thousands of copies of a temperance pamphlet written in passionate style by Dunlop – On the Extent and Remedy of National Intemperance was to become a hugely influential publication and was one of the main reasons that Dunlop became known as the “father of British temperance”.

It was their personal preaching, however, which won over many Scots.

Collins with his fiery, almost religious rhetoric, and Dunlop with his forensic detailing of the dangers of drink made such an impression that temperance societies began to sprout up across Scotland.

The two men went their separate ways many years later as Collins clung to his belief that spirits, i.e. whisky, were the devil, while Dunlop came to align himself with the “total abstinence” wing of the growing temperance movement.

The first total abstinence society had been formed in Paisley in 1832, but it was in Preston in Lancashire that total abstinence became not just a watchword but a war cry for the working class, directly influencing the formation of the Chartist movement.

Back in Glasgow, Dunlop wrote Artificial Drinking Usages of North Britain which for the first time showed how drink permeated every strata of Scottish society.

Politicians were at first reluctant to get involved in the temperance campaign, but when they saw how popular it was becoming, local councillors in particular became very keen on temperance, while the Church of Scotland clergy, who had also been similarly reluctant to join in, began to see the temperance movement as a Christian crusade.

Glasgow and Edinburgh at that time were replete with sellers of drink, some estimates putting the ratio of drink establishments to people around one to 130, and when John Dunlop left the city to try and get a temperance campaign going in London, the suppliers and retailers of drink still held the upper hand.

Not for long, though, especially after a remarkable Irish Catholic priest, Fr Theobald Mathew, founded a Catholic total abstinence society in Cork that soon spread among Catholics across these islands.

The concept of “taking the pledge” was made popular by Fr Mathew who in 1842 came to Glasgow and preached to audiences of all religions. During his visit, an astonishing 40,000 people either born in Ireland or of Irish descent signed the pledge.

Tearooms and tea dances were organised to help abstainers to meet and have a social life – in those days, not to drink was seen to be anti-social, though again attitudes changed as the Victorian era wore on.

CHILDREN were an important target for campaigners. In Edinburgh, the lawyer John Hope founded the British League for Young Teetotallers, and soon it and the recently formed Band of Hope were claiming tens of thousands of young adherents.

Still the makers and suppliers of drink fought on – when the Salvation Army was founded in London in 1864, they sent in the so-called “Skeleton Army” to break up the meetings of the Army which had been founded on abstinence principles.

It all came to a head with with the first major piece of temperance legislation, the so-called Forbes Mackenzie Act – named after the temperance-loving MP for Peeblesshire – of 1853 which forced pubs and hotels to close on Sundays, though “bone fide travellers” could be served. It was said that the Sunday services on railway lines across Scotland had to be doubled to cope with the demand for being a “bona fide traveller”.

As a political movement, temperance was more aligned to the centre and left-wing parties and had grown so influential that by the latter part of the 19th century, groups such as the Order of Good Templars were openly campaigning for prohibition of all alcohol – they were winning converts, too.

Temperance also had a much wider influence on Victorian society where its ideals of self-help were adopted across the board. As the 20th century dawned, the temperance movement was in good heart, and it even had its own political party, the Scottish Prohibition Party, founded in Dundee in 1901. It is a matter of public record that the party only ever had one MP, Edwyn Scrimgeour, who ousted from office none other than Winston Churchill in Dundee in 1922.

In that decade, the Temperance Act of 1913 took effect and local populations were polled to see if they wanted their area to be “dry”. At one point, 16 council wards across Scotland were “dry” while Glasgow Town Council also voted that no new drinking establishments would be allowed on council property – the reason why huge council estates such as Castlemilk, Easterhouse and Drumchapel had so few pubs.

The temperance movement also gave successive governments in Westminster the moral authority they needed to tax booze heavily, particularly spirits, right up until the present day.

The movement began to wane in the 1930s, probably because the Great Depression meant that drinking heavily was just unaffordable anyway. The Second World War and all the cultural changes that it brought also saw temperance drop down the agenda.

In his masterly Oxford Companion to Scottish History, Professor Michael Lynch – and why no knighthood for him? – gives a considered opinion on why the temperance movement declined after the war, saying that it “reflected a new confidence that the welfare state had rendered precautionary self-help unnecessary, a great openness to pleasure, and a declining belief in the ability of individuals to transform their own lives and the lives of people near to them through a continuing act of will.”

Others might say that in a culture of increasing tolerance, the inability of temperance campaigners to evince toleration of the opposite viewpoint has long since put possible abstainers off the idea.

The medical, legal and political authorities might hope otherwise, but the people of Scotland show no signs of temperance just yet.