Free drinks at opening of Colne’s Shepherd’s Arms

PALATIAL PLACE: The Shepherd's Arms, Colne, opened on November 8th, 1963. (S)
PALATIAL PLACE: The Shepherd's Arms, Colne, opened on November 8th, 1963. (S)

It was 50 years ago that the new Shepherd’s Arms Hotel opened its doors in Church Street, Colne, at 7pm, Friday, November 8th, 1963.

Two years earlier, the original Shepherd’s Arms at 16 Clayton Street had been closed and demolished, the last landlord being the affable Bill Longden. Built in the 1860s, the Victorian hostelry was known far and wide as “The Lijahs”, after the legendary landlord Elijah J. Hartley (1860-1932) who kept whippets, greyhounds and trotting horses in the stables at the pub.

The new Shepherd’s Arms was a most palatial place when compared to the Clayton Street beershop (no spirits on sale) and staff in its three bars on the opening night were: “Smoke Room”: Arnold Craig (barman) and Bill Demaine (waiter); “Lounge Bar”: Geoff Crambie (barman) and Jack Valentine (waiter); “Public Bar”: Joe Morony (barman) and Jackie Penman (waiter). The mine hosts were the distinguished duo Albert and Madge Fielding with their bonnie blonde daughter Valerie always on hand.

We three barmen worked a 72-hour week with three free meals a day, while the three waiters worked 35 hours, including one free meal.

On the opening night, Col Eric Tetley cut the ribbon and then announced “all drinks are on the house for the first hour”. First through the main door was Leo Murphy, who was swiftly followed by Micky Rodgers, Horace Carlisle and Smith Crowther. By 8pm Leo had downed six free pints of best Tetley bitter in just one hour! By closing time over 250 customers had been served and we counted takings of £852 and nine shillings.

Sadly, today the ancient Colne woollen industry name of the Shepherd’s Arms has been replaced by fools in high places, but all true Colners still call it “The Lijahs”.