Vicar-turned-landlord celebrates 25 years running award-winning Whalley pub

Norman Atty with his certificate, presented to him by Lorna Willougby.
Norman Atty with his certificate, presented to him by Lorna Willougby.
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A retired vicar has celebrated his 25th anniversary as the landlord of the Dog Inn at Whalley and insists that the clergy could learn a thing or two from running a pub.

Norman Atty and his wife Christine have run the award-winning Dog Inn on King Street and grown it as the heart of community ever since Norman retired from the clergy.

Norman and Christine Atty in front of The Dog Inn.

Norman and Christine Atty in front of The Dog Inn.

Blessed with the talents of an agony aunt in all walks of life, Norman has since gone on to become such a fixture of the town that regulars have asked him to officiate at marriages, christenings, and funerals.

“My mother’s side were involved with the hotel trade for generations," said Norman. "When I was in my 20s I thought I'd like to run a pub one day [and] when I retired as a vicar, the opportunity arose and I took it. I haven’t looked back.”

In his time as landlord, Norman acted as consort to the lady mayor some 15 years ago, has been another mayor’s chaplain, sat on the parish council, been president of the chamber of trade, and still is chaplain to the British Legion.

But the pub has always had his undivided attention, with Norman and Christine originally catering mainly for students from the local mental health teaching hospital before reinventing the pub to appeal to an older clientele after the hospital closed.

Today, the pub is very much run as a family affair. Christine, who for 16 years taught at St Michael with St John Primary School in Blackburn, joined Norman full-time when she herself retired 10 years ago, with her son, Christopher Jay, also starting work at the pub.

“There are similarities between the role of publican and vicar," said Norman. "All clergymen should be required to have a go running a pub, but not the other way around!

With a healthy congregation of regulars, The Dog Inn has more than quality food and drink to that keeps customers coming back: Norman insists the family atmosphere, a listening ear, and the pub's motto of ‘show hospitality to strangers, for some have entertained angels unaware,' keeps people coming.

Lorna Willougby, business development manager at Star Pubs & Bars, said: “Norman and Christine are wonderful, hospitable landlords. [When] the pub and the village flooded a year ago, [they] provided coffee and sandwiches to rescue services, police, and any cold and hungry helpers.

"Locals were worried the pub might change when it was redecorated following the flood," Lorna added. "They didn’t need to be; the homely, traditional character was preserved, much to everyone’s delight.”

As for Norman’s plans for the future, the stool reserved for his occasional use on the customer's side of the bar is very much staying put as he has no intention of retiring anytime soon.

“It’s the customers and our loyal staff, some of whom have been with us for many years, that make running a pub so enjoyable,” he said.