I almost shed a tear in sympathy with the reader who, on our letters page, bemoaned the demise of The Victoria pub.
He was somewhat unfair in accusing the Advertiser and Times of “fawning” coverage of the pub’s conversion to a Fatface clothing shop, even accusing us of 1984-style rewriting of history.
However, he was obviously writing with tongue firmly in cheek, so I’ll let him off.
I, too, have fond memories of The Victoria; not the one here in Clitheroe, but in Padiham, the town of my birth.
Closed as a pub several years ago, it is currently being converted to I know not what.
I remember The Vic as a place inhabited by oldies where, as a 16-year-old underage drinker, I ventured in with my pals. We weren’t ordered to leave, but were invited to sing a song.
In those pre-karaoke days of the 1960s, your choice was restricted to what the pianist could play, and in this case the nearest thing to a pop tune he knew was Roger Miller’s “King of the Road.” We sang it, and it sounded terrible, but it was fun. The pub had shabby curtains, worn seats and plastic pot plants, but the Thwaites ale was good. Now it’s gone for good, along with seven other Padiham inns where I learned to drink.
In the village where I now live, one of the three pubs has been knocked down and replaced by houses and another is struggling to survive, while the third thrives as a grub pub.
It’s the same story nationally. High tax, cheap supermarket booze, the rents of greedy pub companies and even the non-drinking Muslim population have been blamed for the demise of the British pub, which according to real ale pressure group CAMRA now runs at more than 30 closures a week nationally.
In comparison, Clitheroe has not fared badly from pub closures. The celebrated New Inn is a beer festival in its own right with its impressive selection of real ales, and the town is about to get a micro-pub in Market Place for those who prefer good beer to fizzy lager.
Over in Great Harwood, there’s another Victoria, with a magnificent tiled interior and real ales that bring keen drinkers flocking in.
Just like any other business, the pubs that offer something special – whether it’s fine ales, great grub or entertainment – will thrive while the weak will die off.
As the philosopher said: “I’m not saying it’s right, I’m not saying it’s wrong. It’s the way it is.” That was Al Murray, aka the Pub Landlord.