Incidentally I bumped into Angie many years ago, long after those run-ins and we got on great!
She was a formidable landlady and businesswoman, I cannot pay any higher tribute to her than that and deep down, as I found
on that chance meeting, she was and still is a lovely person.
During the summer of 1984, we moved into the Black Swan whilst the couple Angie had appointed
to run-it went on holiday. I loved staying there, with all its bedrooms (I think there were four or five!). Eventually my
mum got the job as manageress there and in November 1984, we moved up there full-time thus literally abandoning our house
at Paterson Place.
The Swan is very close to the Hind Leys Campus, so I could stay in bed until half eight and
casually stroll through the gates at two minutes to nine in plenty of time for registration!
However the convenience of the Swan to school had a massive drawback for me. During lunchtimes,
teachers from my school started using it much to my acute embarrassment. This caused me severe loss of face with my mates,
my popularity had initially soared when it became a known-fact that I was staying at the Black Swan. Even kids who normally
would have classed me as being a form lower than dog-shit were hankering after an invite back for a few games on the fruit
machine and half a dozen free Cokes. Now thanks to those bloody teachers, I was no longer cock of the school!
I would ask my mum to spike their meals, put some extra hot chilli powder in to scare them off but she told me to shut-up.
It was good business as far as she was concerned. Technically they were on strike, or should I say "working to rule". They
stopped doing “unpaid” extras such as taking after-school activities and supervising the dinner-hall and went
to the pub. At the time, I was outraged but now it seems a bloody fine idea!
was choosy who I had round and I remember my old pal Paul Hodges joining me on Monday afternoon. Back in those days,
the pubs were not allowed to open in the afternoons after 2.30pm so we left my mum watching “Sons and Daughters”
or some rubbish like that and went into the pub to hang around the empty bar. I got sick of kids saying to me “I bet
you drink all the beer” because at the time, I could not stand the taste of the stuff. In those days we sold Guinness, Bass,
Carling, Worthington, Worthington E and Tennents Pilsner had just arrived on the market. Me and Splodge decided we would be
sophisticated gents, albeit 13 year old ones and take an afternoon G and T in the bar! Alas my mum arose from her slumber
and caught us. She went ballistic. Thankfully she only sent Splodge back to his house on Forest Street and never mentioned
it to his mam Maureen. However I copped a bollocking when my Dad came home from work that night.
had a great Christmas and New Year there and in early 1985 Angie announced she was relinquishing the tenancy of the Black
Swan. I’m not blowing my own trumpet here, but my mum and dad were immensely popular with the locals and they decided
they would apply for the vacancy.
the regulars seemed to back them up and little did we know it at the time, there was even a petition sent to the brewery.
They even had divine intervention on their side! My mum and dad surely could not fail to suceed in their dream?
of the regulars was the Canon from St Winifred’s church. He was 84 at the time and he drove a light blue, Mark 3 Ford
Cortina. With all due respect, he probably should not have been driving at his age and the poor Cortina bore many battle scars
– I know I should not mock a holy man, but he would often catch the wall as he drove into the pub car park. He knew
the lunchtime barmaid Roma, as she went to his church, she would make a fuss over him. He would eat their every lunchtime
and sit in the back snug alone. He always specified that he was to have six chips with his meal. Sometimes my mum would mischievously
put seven on and he would send his meal back.
His “special milk” was also a great source of amusement
to Roma, which to me and you
was the code for a large brandy!
was not just the Catholic Church that was well-represented at the Mucky Duck, the Church of England had a presence there
too. St Botolphs Church had a new vicar in 1985, the Reverand Champneys who came up from Chiswick in West London. I knew
all this because his oldest son Tim was in my class at school. Tim was a punk rocker, the last thing you would expect from
a vicars son and became pals with Lee Noakes – who sort of became my cousin when my Aunt married his Uncle briefly.
Both were good lads.
a battered blue Cortina was the Canon’s transport of choice, the Reverand Champneys had a penchant for motorbikes. It
was brilliant to see him roaring down Loughborough Road in a cloud of dusk with his robe fluttering in the background!
would regularly pop in for a pint, even on Sundays. I think more people would attend church if vicars were more like him.
He was a real man of the people, standing in the bar with a pint and a fag chatting to the regulars. He certainly injected
some spirit into our community. I remember that summer he opened up the vicarage grounds, put a marquee up and staged a disco
one Friday night. Everyone got involved. It was brilliant and going to his church was suddenly cool.
something darker happened one day. He had two pet goats who he would let wander in the cemetery to keep the grass down and
one lunchtime, me, Lee and Tim spotted this horrible little scumbag called Emu and his brother lobbing big rocks at these
terrified goats. We tried to stop them but got a gobful of abuse for our trouble.
fetched his Dad and he dragged this pair off into the vicarage grounds which were hidden by a tall wall! Minutes later they
emerged with blood pouring from their noses! Now I don’t know what happened inside the walled garden of the vicarage
but “just desserts” springs to mind.
I seem to remember the Reverend later and somewhat remorsefully
phoned the police and told them what had happened, but nothing ever came of it. Could you imagine the uproar these days if
it had happened? The law favours the perpetrator too much these days and the victims are long forgotten.
There were so many wonderful folk at the Swan in those days who were classed not just as regulars
but friends too. It still is a nice pub to drink in and there is always a good atmosphere in there even today. Back then,
there were the Cooke brothers, Robert and Willie, both die-hard Arsenal fans although Willie was the kit-man at Shepshed Charterhouse
FC - their ground was over the road. It still is but the club are called Shepshed Dynamo nowadays. Willie kindly
gave me some bound editions of Shoot magazine. At face value, Willie could come across as quite a serious bloke - he
had a very dry sense of humour but Rob on the other hand was a natural wind-up merchant. I remember me and him gatecrashing
the Pensioners party my mam and dad laid on for the old folk that Christmas and changing the music from Sinatra to Status
Quo! Early Quo not the cheesy dirge they became notorious for!!!
There was a lovely old fella called Pat who was at the party. He had such a kindly face and
gentle manner, but Rob would call him “pissed up Pat” because he had a tendency to have one too many and fall
over. He was big mates with a little Welsh bloke called Bob or Taffy. Bob was a star, sadly he is no longer with us but his
son Clive remains a good friend of mine. Bob had a habit of giving people he liked sweets, but it was comical how he did it
because it was as if he was slipping them a bribe! He would mumble something like “put that in your pocket for later!”
It was a boiled sweet not a couple of hundred quid! Obviously he only wanted to share them around his close friends! One night
we arranged a kissagram for him. What a night that was! She was a gorgeous dark-haired girl in white lace. I remember I had
some pictures of the event, which I discovered years later and gave to Clive.
Then there was Terry, a bloke who took me clay pigeon shooting. I was utterly hopeless, was
deaf for about a week after, but they were such nice people at the Mucky Duck, like most Shepshed folk are. Eric Shepard is
another name I remember and Ray Short, who was the caretaker at the High School. A Geordie who visited the area
told my Mam that the warmth and atmosphere from the regulars rivalled even the legendary northern hospitality they boast about
in the north-east.
Alas, the good times were destined to end. Even with such fantastic regulars on their side
and arguably God himself, the brewery gave the Swan to another couple Terry and Freda who came from Ilkeston. My Mam
and Dad left in March 1985, I remember the very last Saturday night, the place was literally drunk dry and there was not a
dry eye in the place. Thinking back, is not technically true that they left after that sad day because
they both carried on working there until they got their own pub in April 1986. I remember a lot of folk moaned about the brewery
decision and Terry and Freda taking over, but I got along with them fine. Terry even employed me to walk his dogs during my
school lunch-breaks and he was a massive help in finding my Mum and Dad their own pub in Ashby, where my Dad still is to this