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Happy as a sandboy

Posted by James Briggs on October 25, 2000

In Reply to: Happy as a sandboy posted by Bruce Kahl on October 25, 2000

: : Does anyone know what or who this happy sandboy is?? Noone I've asked seems to have a clue and I'm strating to lose sleep...
: : Thanks! Charlotte

: I dont remember where I saw this phrase and I cant find it again so I can not give you a source which makes my explanation a guess!
: As a butcher puts down sawdust to soak up droppings a saloon owner will put down sand to soak up stale beer. Small boys, "sandboys", will bring in buckets of sand and be paid with small amounts of beer which can make one smile excessively, hence the "happy" part of your phrase.
: Another guess is that this is a UK phrase as I never heard it here in the US of A.

True! Here's a fuller version, and from home town too.

As happy as a sandboy is an expression which implies blissful contentment. I believe that the saying is truly Bristolian in origin. On Bathurst basin, in the City centre is the long established Ostrich Inn. The Inn is immediately adjacent to the Redcliff caves which, in their day, were a prime source of sand. Past landlords of the Inn used to send little boys ie Sandboys into the caves to collect sand to spread on the floor of the Inn to soak up the beer and ale droppings (much like butchers used to put sawdust on the floor of their shops). The Sandboys were paid for their efforts in beer. They were indeed happy.