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Friday, 21 November 2014

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Carlisle city centre's longest-serving landlord relaxes into retirement

One of Carlisle’s most well-known pub landlords has revealed some of his favourite moments after calling time at the bar.

Harry Ross, 62, and wife Pat have run the Howard Arms on Lowther Street since 1984 and this week handed over the keys to its new tenants.

The well-known couple, from Wetheral, are retiring and celebrating their decision to make the move to Carlisle from Newcastle all those years ago.

Despite now being part of the furniture in and around the city it was never the intention to hang around very long.

“It was me who wanted a pub and I was pursuing the ways around doing that,” said Harry, who was the city centre’s longest serving pub landlord.

After several interviews he was invited to the Lakeland Brewery in Workington to meet the regional manager.

“He told me that we’d got the Howard Arms and asked if I’d like to see the pub on the way back home. We took one look at it and it was full of not the nicest of people.

“Pat cried all the way back and for the next three days. The brewery kept asking for our decision so I said to Pat that we’d go for three years and then go back home to Newcastle. Yet 30 years on we are still here.

“They didn’t even ask you if you could pull a pint, they just gave you the keys and said here you go.

“I was told by them that we have jumped in at the deep end and we have to just keep on swimming. Then the two Carlisle rugby teams came in after about six months and it took off after that. As it got busier people started to identify themselves with us.”

During their tenure, Harry and Pat transformed what was a rundown pub into one of the most popular drinking spots in the city – with a particular claim to fame.

“Theakstons asked us if we would start selling their real ale and we sold more of that any other pub in the country and have done for the last 28 years. At one time we were selling about 10 barrels a week – that’s 360 gallons of beer,” he said.

The pub was famous for its community spirit and those who worked and drank there became like a family. Harry has plenty of stories to tell from his time behind the bar.

One customer, known as Jinx, came into the pub one day around 10 years ago and Harry told him that he hadn’t seen him in for a while.

Jinx responded by saying: “Harry, I’ve been in Australia for 10 years. In fact, the last time I was in here I left a brown bomber jacket.”

Much to his delight, Harry discovered the jacket in the ‘lost and found’ cupboard and returned it to him.

With pub owners often struggling to get time away for a holiday it’s no wonder that Harry was a little nervous about leaving the pub before their first venture abroad. But go they did – and enjoyed catching up with the pub gossip on their return.

A joke that often did the rounds centred around a plaque saying ‘Dixy’s Corner’, to highlight how customer Alan Dixon always stood in a particular place.

“We had a refurbishment and had a plaque made. People used to come in and ask how he died and when. He would then either come and say ‘I’m still here’ or I would tell people that he’d be coming in about 10 minutes, which always used to confuse them.”

Harry’s unofficial role as a fount of local knowledge was never in doubt. This was no more evident than in 1988 on the night of the Lockerbie bombings when a Reuters journalist originally from Carlisle made Harry her first point of call to find out what was going on.

Now retired, Harry said that he is contemplating how spend his newly acquired free time.

“Pat has got quite a few jobs lined up for me in the first six months.

“After 30 years I just need to sit down and relax. I haven’t made any plans. I can now really switch off.

“I am apprehensive about leaving. You can’t be there for 30 years and say I’m not going to miss it. I will miss the camaraderie and the good times we had.”

Have your say

Enjoy retirement, all the best to you both. Was there a denim jacket in that cupboard?

Posted by Geofflorimer on 21 July 2014 at 16:41

Thanks for some great years. Enjoy you retirement.

Posted by Mal Tinkler on 21 July 2014 at 12:58

View all 8 comments on this article

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