Columnist and former member of Tynwald David Cretney takes a look back at the pubs, bars and hotels of Douglas that we've loved and, on some occasions, lost over the years...
I’ve been threatening to take a metaphorical pub crawl around some of the hostelries that no longer exist and some of the characters remembered around Douglas in particular for a few weeks now so here goes!
One pub that is still going strong is the Woodbourne or ‘Woodie’ as it is affectionately known by its loyal clientele.
A last bastion of the ‘male only’ snug now destined to history with caricature sketches of some of the regulars from years gone by adorning the walls expertly drawn by Des Claque.
My memory goes back to the boss from years ago Joyce Cottier and of the Handlebar Grill.
Whatever Joyce said was what would happen and she was ably assisted by Hilda Terry who would ensure there was no bad behaviour and who despite her slightly fierce reputation was in actual fact a lovely lady.
I remember Boxing Days in the men’s bar with carol singing from some prominent Douglas residents such as George Shimmin, Gifford Rowe, Cranston Laidlaw and more.
Once the chosen destination of one or two senior members of the legal profession it is now the home of the ‘free beer for advocates’ campaign promoted by a well known saxophonist of that persuasion.
Sadly a real character who lived just up the road Jack Brennan and who was himself the landlord of the Wheatsheaf together with his wife Muriel has recently passed away but he is remembered as one of life’s gentlemen.
Heading down towards town, one of the good old traditional pubs that I spent time in was the Forester’s Arms on the corner of Hope Street opposite the former site of the Douglas Post Office Sorting Office.
For years another lady with whom you wouldn’t disagree was the host, Joyce Woolley, who ran a good house together with other staff including the lovely Vera Nuttall and Lindsey Fick.
After a hard days work a number of the postmen would find time to relax and the pub also attracted residents and characters who lived in the nearby area. Latterly Nita and Derek Ankers were the team in charge, and they carried on the warm hospitality.
When it closed the pub was sadly made subject to a restrictive covenant preventing it from being used by others as a licensed premise.
SMGP racing also operated out of the Forester’s where money was raised to support many local Manx Grand Prix competitors by a group including Steve Parkinson,Ritchie McNicholl,Stephen Pitts,Billy Galloway, Richie Stevenson and Graham Purvis amongst others.
Nearby on Athol Street was the Grosvenor, known originally as the Commercial Inn and was referred to as such in 1877 when the old building was remodeled inside and out according to the ‘Weekly Times’ of the time.
In the other direction at the end of Circular Road and top of Prospect Hill stood the Raglan and amongst those who were in charge over the years was Arthur Prince who was well respected in the licensing trade and who operated the Granville Hotel off the Promenade for some years.
It was another sad day when the Brewery decided to close the Waterloo in Strand Street, not only was it a very interesting building externally but the landlord Dick Turpin another real gentleman served in my opinion one of the best kept pints.
I remember going in through a back door off back Strand Street and along a corridor to get served and hoping that I wouldn’t be challenged on my age!
The Star was another establishment with two entrances one on Prospect Hill and one on Nelson Street and that went back to the 1870s.
Behind the Douglas Town Hall was the Albion, now known as the Rovers Return.
As a young Councillor in 1983 I remember another character Alderman Cyril Simpson who like a number of other postmen had been a time served Councillor.
The Council meetings would sometimes go on and on and Cyril would disappear for half an hour.
I have no idea where he went but he looked happy enough when he returned!
In front of the Town Hall in Ridgeway Street is a fine brick finished building of the same name the Ridgeway.
Still there but now office accommodation.
I remember Pulrose United having their HQ there for years.
The pub also hosted entertainment with a band playing most Saturday nights, they also had a function room with lovely meals.
It was another popular spot for ‘Hunt the wren celebrations’ on Boxing Day. Who remembers Frank Joughin and Gerry Hicks working on the bar?
How about Ibby on the organ, Ernie on the drums and Lee Roy, Robin Crompton or Harry Christian singing and what about the dancing in the big back room?
I left home at 16 to live with a friend in a flat in Hutchinson Square.
I also lived for some time in a flat above the Old Curiosity Shop pub in Castle Street.
I think in those days it was operated by the Bird family.
The premise is still a pub but it’s now Brendan O’Donnell’s and hosts live Irish music together with traditional Irish whiskeys and of course Guinness!
Other pubs in the vicinity included the Old Strand, New Strand, and the Booth family were associated with the Globe which has had a number of other incarnations (correct me if I’m wrong!) including the Legs of Mann, Carnival, Strand 58, Casey’s and Rendezvous 2.
Roger Bradley was the proprietor of the Falcon Hotel which had holiday accommodation as well as being a licensed premise.
In the Summer, girls from Kilkeel in Northern Ireland would work there.
I played in the pool team and my now next door neighbour Joe Frearson was a friend in those days with many others.
There was, like so many pubs, a great juke box in the pool room.
In the back room live entertainment was provided and I most remember Leyroy and Linda with a bit of a country rock vibe.
One place I remember vividly was Yate’s Wine lodge by the jubilee clock in Victoria Street.
It sometimes seemed that was as far as some day trippers got!
The Australian white wine which could be purchased in singles or doubles was wicked stuff.
Later it became the first venue for Bushy’s Brewery with great live bands playing and being the centre of all the action in TT week packed to the gunnel’s every night.
Just along the Promenade came the Villiers with the clock inn and big concert room.
How many weddings and dinner dances were held there?
Of course the much remembered and much missed Donald Slee was the manager and what a special place it was.
A little further on the corner of Regent Street was the Athol Hotel. My Dad did the book keeping for Edric Gill and family who also had a well used function room.
Opposite was the Regent which is now the Regency next to the main post office.
As usual, I’m running out of space and would welcome your feedback on your favourite pubs in or out of Douglas.
Here’s just a few more to get you thinking…Dogs Home, Shakespeare, Douglas, Clarendon, Trafalgar, Salisbury, Jamaica Inn, Theatre Royal.