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Cottaging was rife


“I used cottages before John and during the end of my relationship with John but not in the middle, no.  I didn’t, I was part of a couple so I didn’t cat around, no, for a long time, that was later on. I was 24 when I met him (1965), 25 when we really started living together. I left the hotel business because I met John, because it didn’t suit us for me to be going out to work at night where he was coming home from the office.”

The pub in those days was the Arms, which I think is gone now, quite close to the Smallbrook Queensway, and nearby was the which was this cottage down below the street, quite close to New Street Station.  Everybody went down there.  Oh gosh, the things that went on there would make your hair curl.  Generally some of the liaisons there would be absolutely outrageous with very little care about who might not be coming in because it wasn’t all gay guys that went down there, there were some straight guys as well.  The Silver Slipper had two entrances and absolutely palatial marble stands and marble tiles but occasionally it would get raided by the cops and emptied into vans and then, of course, everybody would come rushing into the bar. ‘The Slipper’s been raided’ so nobody would go there for a couple of days.  Most of the little cottages around Birmingham would be very busy, very busy indeed because it was where we met, we had the odd bar but we didn’t have many bars and the landlords were making money, that was all they were interested in but, the moment there was any threat to them or their licence, they would pull out and they wouldn’t be gay anymore.  So you could go one week it would be gay and the next week it wouldn’t.  It was as flexible as that.”

“In the cottages, we’d do everything, oh everything, yeah, everything, every single thing. hadn’t raised its head by then but there was VD, of course.  That’s why we’re mostly what we are now.  It’s getting less now, of course, but – yes, sex in toilets was from masturbation to full blown sex, lurve if you like, and everything in between.”

“We’d use lube or saliva but I think the more gentlemen amongst us would probably carry a lube of some kind, probably Vaseline because although I think KY’s always been around, it was rather expensive and still is.  But, yeah, it would probably be Vaseline because of the little tins.  The police search your handbag and they find a tin of Vaseline in there.  You can’t always have cracked lips, can you?”

“The places would get raided, I think probably mostly through hetero complaints or if somebody had been arrested somewhere else and they’d say where else do you go and they’d say we go down the Silver Slipper down behind the Station and, therefore, it would be watched.  Because they took great delight these people, as I’ve already said, Gestapo tactics were the norm and they were pretty awful people the majority of them.  They were coppers by default, I would have thought.”

“I was never arrested, touch wood, but my partner was, and several of my friends have been over the years.  I’ve had friends who have committed suicide because of being found cottaging and then the families don’t know anything about it.  That’s pretty ghastly.  But, no, I was tarred with the same brush, I think they (the Police) were all bastards anyway and I think they probably still are but they’ve got less power as regards gay, I mean, now.  They still arrest us for cottaging, of course, but it’s not a really practised thing these days because cottages have all been closed and they've gone into restaurants now, haven’t they? Shops and restaurants didn’t have to supply public toilets anyway so it was a public convenience thing to have these places and it was very convenient to a lot of us.”

Contributed by: Robin McGarry, 66

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