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Sunday, 19 February 2017

Old Roan memories

The Old Roan (picture borrowed
from the petition set up to save it)
Unusually, I was driving towards Liverpool last Thursday (I almost always go by rail nowadays) via Aintree. I used to drive this route every day for 13 years when I worked in Norris Green, Liverpool 11, until I transferred to Southport in 1993. I was expecting changes, and there were certainly plenty. However, what I wasn't expecting to see that the Old Roan pub was boarded up. Checking on-line later, I saw that it has been closed for 3 or 4 years and is up for sale for conversion to retail premises. There was an unsuccessful petition (now closed) to Sefton Council Licensing Unit to allow the pub to reopen.

This pub was something of a highly visible landmark, giving its name to the surrounding area and to the nearby railway station;  I don't recall it ever selling real ale. However, when I worked in Norris Green, I'd sometimes offer Wally Warren, the deputy manager, a lift if we were leaving work at the same time - we both tended to work late; he lived near the pub and it saved him a slow bus trip. Sometimes he'd offer to buy me a pint, and in we'd go. I was the union rep in the office, but no cosy deals were stitched up there.

For a while, we had a manager who seemed to have a skill in getting on everyone's nerves. After he'd been moved on, Wally told me that he'd learnt about our occasional drinks and asked, "Is it fruitful?" Wally replied that I didn't let slip anything that I shouldn't, and neither did he as a member of management; he added that the boss never trusted him again.

In negotiations, Wally and I crossed swords on several occasions, but it wasn't personal. He was an old-school manager with integrity, even if he could be a bit grumpy on occasions; overall the staff liked him and tended to tolerate his little foibles with a knowing smile. I learnt a few years ago that he'd died; if I'd known I'd have gone to his funeral.

As I drove past the Old Roan, all these thoughts came back to me and, although the beer wasn't up to much, I look back on those pints in that pub with fondness and, I'd go as far to say, friendship.

One of these occasions was the last time I drank a pint of keg lager. Wally bought it for me in error and offered to replace it when he realised his mistake, but I just accepted it. After all, it wasn't as though the Old Roan's bitter was much better.

Cheers, Wally!

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