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Blackburn’s Molloy’s – Open For Business As Usual

Blackburn’s Molloy’s pub has been put up for sale.  But despite not meeting its reserve price at auction in July, it’s still business as usual for the popular hostelry on King William Street. 

Molloy’s has had a positive impact on Blackburn’s pub scene, despite it being one of our town centre’s ‘newer’ pubs.  It was well-known book shop, Seed & Gabbutt’s, for many years, until bought by Irish themed pubs group, O’Neill’s.  Duplicates of O’Neill’s familiar blue and yellow liveried pubs suddenly started springing up across Britain in the 1980’s and Blackburn was included.

Sadly for local CAMRA members, O’Neill’s was a real ale desert.  This reflected the Emerald Isle at the time, where cask beer was also very difficult to find.  But like Ireland and its own microbrewery revolution, that all changed when it became Molloy’s.  Despite its Irish name, this theme bar culture was gradually squeezed out and it became a proper pub.  No more trying to figure out what Fir and Mna meant on the toilet doors.

Molly’s soon became a mainstay of our town centre real ale scene and carried on flying the flag while other pubs either shut down or stopped selling cask beer.  This pub is now established as one of the best in Blackburn.  It is one of three, including the Napier and Postal Order, which serves food, along with real ale in the town centre, and has a good mix of young and old punters in during the day and at night.

‘Molly’s’ owner, Stonegate Pub Company, part of the Cayman Islands incorporated TDR Capital group, are also selling off many of their other interests.  They are Britain’s fourth largest managed pub chain and currently own nearly 700 outlets, including Yates, Walkabout and the Slug and Lettuce restaurants.  It would appear the latter may be where Stonegate may have their main focus, leading to them possibly wishing to offload some of their pubs to release funds for further investment in their prime interests.

Unfortunately Stonegate’s pub downsizing plans has had a negative effect on business, certainly at local level.  Many punters think Molly’s has either shut down already, or will be doing so in the very near future.  This is certainly not the case and the best way of ensuring the future of this popular friendly pub is to carry on supporting it and keep the momentum going in the rebirth of Blackburn’s pub scene.

When Blackburn Rovers Did Win A Raffle

How many times have you heard people say Rovers couldn’t win a raffle?  Many years ago they cleared all their debts with one.

New Bank Road to the left, Revidge Road at the top.

Rovers’ lost Leamington Street ground

Before Blackburn Rovers moved to Ewood Park they played their home games in the Revidge district of Blackburn.  These were at East Lancs’ Alexandra Meadows cricket ground, before moving round the corner to their own Leamington Street football ground.

Despite Rovers probably being the most successful football club in the world at the time – they won the FA Cup, or English Cup as it was known then, for the third time in a row in 1886 – there was still the perennial problem then, as now, of paying for it all.

The ingenuity of football fans was as powerful over 130 years ago as it is now and one of the most novel ways ever of raising money for Rovers was put into action.  This was raffling a house on New Bank Road, near their Leamington Street ground, in 1886.  It became known as The Rovers Cottage and was said to be worth £140.

Tickets would go on sale at 6d each but this was very expensive for some fans.  Sixpence 130 years ago would be worth around £25 in today’s money.  Supporters would often create their own syndicates to buy tickets.  Normally six people would put in a penny each and then hold a draw amongst themselves to decide who would be holder of their raffle entry ticket.

On this occasion five men from Blackburn clubbed together to do this.  They had difficulty in persuading a sixth; a 24 year old Blackburn Corporation gas meter inspector from Johnston Street, called John Thomas Barker, to join in with their syndicate.  Finally he reluctantly handed over his penny and then won their raffle to hold the ticket.

The draw was made on Wednesday 17 March 1886 at Culleen’s Circus, Blakey Moor, from the same cylinder Blackburn Olympic had used for their prize draw the previous Saturday, ironically the day Rovers beat the Swifts to book their place in their third Cup Final in a row.  No doubt the boys from the top of East Park Road would have had some decent prizes, but nothing compared to what was on offer from those boys at the top of West Park Road.  The Rovers Cottage was a sensation and created enormous interest, with 4,000 people turning up to watch the draw.

Mr Barker found out that he had won the raffle.  This prize was a fortune for most working men at the time.  He said he had received two offers for the house of £115 and £120.  At today’s prices, these figures could be multiplied nearly a thousand fold.

The Rovers Cottage wasn’t just a great success for its raffle winner, it also helped pay off all of Rovers’ outstanding debts.  The icing on their cake came a few weeks later with them winning the FA Cup for a third time in a row.  Known as the ‘Thrice’, this is a feat no club has since been able to achieve and means Rovers still hold the longest unbeaten run in the world’s oldest club competition.

Venkoids From Space Invade Blackburn Rovers

Can you imagine alien creatures from a far off galaxy invading Earth?  Well, maybe they have already.  Could the Venkoids be those creatures?

They came from the Planet Lune – which sounds like Pune.  Three alien siblings: Captain Balaji Blob, his brother Commander V and sister Lieutenant Annie Uhura.  These space invaders were on a mission to take over Blackburn Rovers and their planetary station.  Their spacecraft had managed to get under the obsolete FA radar and orbit Ewood Park.  Now they wanted to assimilate every Rovers fan – resistance was futile, or so they thought!

The Venkoids’ plan was to turn Ewood Park into a giant fast-food outlet, forcing Rovers fans into eating space burgers and fries, then watching chicken-feed.  But they failed to assess resistance from these intrepid local Earthlings.  A dissident movement was set up and protests took place, as did a boycott campaign.  This prompted the Venkoids to commit acts of reprisal against those brave dissidents.

Their first action was to replace our manager with an out of spacer called Kean.  This brought plague and pestilence upon our world.  Deluded Kean’s disastrous reign of terror even managed to upset two of the Venkoids, though he still had support from the lieutenant.  She acted like a proper little madam.  More spaced out leaders were put on the bridge, but further disasters followed.

The final humiliation came when our penultimate leader steered us into a black hole and we landed in a time warp.  In spite of heroic efforts from our new man at the helm, relegation was inevitable.  This took us back to a period of our history called the third dimension – somewhere we thought we would never visit again.

But while our world was still under attack, strange things were happening to the Venkoids.  Just when they thought their destruction of our world was complete, they began to lose their power and started succumbing to some kind of mysterious sickness, similar to amnesia.  It was said pursuing creatures from their own world had finally caught up with them.  Now they were exacting a fitting and painful retribution upon them for not paying their dues.

Or was it not malignant greed at all to which they had succumbed, but their visit to a children’s chicken pox party in Blackburn.  Could this be what created their demise?  Nobody will ever know – we still couldn’t get any communication from the Venkoids, even at the bitter end!

Blackburn St George & The Trinity Beer Festival

Holy Trinity Church on Blackburn’s Mount Pleasant is famous for its former vicar, Chad Varah, who went on to form the Samaritans.  Trinity was an apt name for Chad as he and wife Susan had triplets while he was vicar of this church in Blackburn’s Larkhill area.

Photo courtesy of Jason Walker

 

This Grade 2 listed building no longer holds weekly church services.  Like me in my first job, it was made redundant in the early 1980’s.  But these days it hosts various activities and on this St George’s Day weekend, Trinity Church provided us with a beer festival.  Jason Walker along with James and Katy Quayle, who run the Drummer’s Arms, were amongst the many good Samaritans who helped put on this festival, along with some of the local breweries and tradesmen who supply their pub.

I was able to get to Saturday’s afternoon session.  My first pint of the day actually started off on my way there, in the Postal Order, where it was appropriately St George’s by Acorn Brewery from Barnsley.  Mighty oaks from little acorns grow and more good beer was anticipated for me today.

Off to the beer festival next, landing there around quarter to one.  Darwen’s Hop Star was my first pint in the church and guess what?  I was on their St George’s ale.  Blackburn’s Three B’s was next with Bee Proud, which was another ale related to England’s patron saint.  My next beer was Blonde Vixen from Wigan’s Wily Fox brewery and was my favourite on the day.  Porter from the Big Clock took my attention later.  It had filled up at the festival by now, a lot of people were enjoying the sunshine outside as well as those inside.

Today’s entertainment was pretty good but the show was stolen by teenage singer and guitarist, Georgia Farrar from Brighouse.  She brought this house down and gave us an excellent performance.  St Georgia’s Day would have been a good name for today after listening to her music.   Great things look destined for this talent and many people will soon have Georgia on their mind.

I really enjoyed this visit to the Trinity Beer Festival.  My only regret was not covering myself up enough with more layers of clothing.  Being a church, it felt as far away from the fires of Hell as you could probably get.  My jean jacket and Hobgoblin tee shirt left me feeling a bit cold inside this building and it certainly wasn’t Mount Pleasant in my case.  But with free entry and all real ales pegged at £2.50 a pint, there was plenty of holy water available and an enjoyable time was had by all.  Let’s just hope the next beer festival here is in July or August.

What Next For Blackburn’s Jubilee Pub?

A rare glimpse of the Jubilee’s door open

Blackburn’s Jubilee Hotel seems to be bucking the trend in our town centre for all the wrong reasons.  New pubs have recently opened and others have come back from the dead, but the Jubilee seems to be in a state of inactivity.

This Blakey Moor pub has had its ups and downs over the years.  I remember it having flagstone floors in the 1970’s, which were often stained with blood from fights which broke out in here.  This hostelry was a contender for Blackburn’s roughest pub, though similar things could be said about plenty of others at the time.

Things changed for the better when Tom and Linda Fox took over the pub in the early 1990’s.  After spending money refurbishing the place and kicking out anti-social elements, their Jubilee became a great pub.  My happiest memory of those days was when Rovers won the Premier League in 1995 and joining many fans celebrating inside and outside the pub, closing both Blakey Moor and Barton St.  Tom was a massive Rovers fan and these times were the zenith for his pub and his team.

Tom and Linda left to run the Golden Cup and their former pub has never been able to emulate those happy days.  Years of decline followed and a seedy reputation developed.  It was closed under a police order in 2008, but re-opened a year later.  Attempts have been made since those dark days to make a go of the Jubilee, but this pub seems to have continued on a downward spiral.  Now one of Thwaites’ last town centre pubs looks to be closed once again.

This is very sad, yet seems so unnecessary.  Very few pubs in Blackburn are in a better location for attracting passing trade.  Our college and its University Centre are nearby and have provided this pub with a lot of custom over the years.  There has also always been trade from many events across the road at King George’s Hall.

Unfortunately attracting trade to a pub which seems to only open sporadically doesn’t help matters.  Nearly every time I have walked past this pub lately it has been closed.  On those rare occasions when it was open they never had any real ale on sale, so it might as well have not bothered in my case.

But there is always hope around the corner.  With great news about the Adelphi and a new version of Liquid Nightclub both re-opening, perhaps we could see a return of the Jubilee.  Anything’s possible in Blackburn these days.

Potential Threat: Blackburn’s Punks Who Never Gave Up

Potential Threat formed in the very early 1980’s and used to practice in my favourite pub then – the Balaclava on Watford Street.

Bill Beattie was landlord of the Bala at the time.  He had half a dozen kids, including son Gary, who used to be a DJ and had lived in the squats of Amsterdam.  Gary had a great collection of music, some of it on his dad’s pub jukebox, with some outstanding Punk Rock.  This helped bring into the pub a lot of Blackburn’s spiky-haired and leather jacketed punk fans.

Amongst these Balaclava punks was a burgeoning group called Potential Threat.  They were a friendly bunch and let me and other punk rock fans in the pub watch them practice their incredibly fast music.  They had been through a few line-up changes already when I came across them back then.  They were Les on bass, who everybody who went boozing in Blackburn town centre seemed to know.  Woody, their drummer, was a big Rovers fan, who I used to bump into at matches.  Then there was Fos on lead guitar and girlfriend at the time, Pauline, their vocalist.  She is still fronting the group over 35 years later.

Strangely enough, this group’s first vocalist, Carl Rigby, went on to become a lecturer at Blackburn College.  I know this because he taught me Communication Studies in the early 90’s and helped me pass my only ‘A’ Level at this subject.

Like most groups, Potential Thread changed their members over the years and had dormant periods, but never actually split up.  Guitarist Andy Cowan was having a beer in the Napier one Friday afternoon.  I remarked upon Potential Threat being emblazoned across his jacket and we got talking about the group.  Andy said he had been a member of the band for over thirty years.  Along with Andy and Pauline, they currently comprise of Mick on bass and Ersy on drums.

Over the years the group has written their own material and toured with groups such as long-time Anarcho-Punks – Conflict – who, like Potential Threat, are still going to this day.  In 2014 they started rehearsing again and a year later played their first gig in over thirty years.  Unfortunately bad luck continued to blight the band, with Pauline suffering an attack of pneumonia and having to go in hospital at the end of last year.  Hopefully a new year brings new hope and Potential Threat will be back and showing everyone their own punk potential.

Venky’s Knocked Down By A Feather

Venky’s have not been seen at Blackburn Rovers games for ages.  Rumours in India say the family is suffering from some kind of bizarre disease, possibly a side-effect following DNA research into poultry production.

Rovingmick.com

The Incredible Feathered Venky

As one of the world’s leading avian research institutions, based in India, Venky’s have always boasted of having technology to even create new species of life.  One unusual challenge they recently received was to bring the extinct Dodo back to life.  They say it could be possible using 3D bio-printing.

Venky’s claim this kind of technology was right up their street.  They believe they could also solve the age old riddle of which came first: the chicken or the egg?  They say they could manage to create an egg before a Dodo in this case.  After all, they are a hatchery and their matriarch – Mrs Desai – is known as ‘Madam’, which means Mother Hen in some Indian dialects.  Her brother Balaji is even more fearsome and is known to rule their company with a rod of iron.  No doubt they can see opportunities for feathering their nests, should these experiments succeed.

Unfortunately for the Venky’s, theory and practice do not always go like a bird in the hand and their chickens may have come home to roost on this occasion.  The Rao family have spent all their life amongst chickens and this may have made them more susceptible than most people to airborne avian infections.  Reports of the Venky’s having facial disfigurements resembling a coating of feathers have been mentioned by sources in India.

There is also a theory Venky’s’ buying Blackburn Rovers may have triggered some kind of ironic scourge upon the Rao family.  In 1965 Blackburn was hit by a polio epidemic.  This led to other football clubs refusing to play Rovers and they started their season later than everybody else.  Their backlog of matches didn’t help and led to them being relegated at the end of the 1965-66 Season.  Perhaps some kind of throwback to those troubled times has come back to haunt Venky’s.  It may become known as the Rovers’ Revenge.

While Venky’s own us, there is more chance of them bringing the Dodo back to life than Blackburn Rovers.  At least we can look forward to a day when Venky’s ownership of our club, like the life of the Dodo, will also become extinct and consigned to the history books.  Nobody will ever want to see their disastrous stewardship of Blackburn Rovers occur again.  They have taken us to the brink of extinction.  But 3D bio-printing won’t be necessary and like the fabled phoenix, Rovers will one day rise again.

Banging The Drum For Blackburn Town Centre

Who is being sheared, James or the sheep?

The Drummer’s Arms may be Blackburn’s newest pub, but it didn’t take long to establish itself among the real ale drinking enthusiasts of the area.

Owners, James and Katy Quayle, who you may have seen on TV recently, following Blackburn scooping the national High Street shopping award, have a range of five real ales available.  These often include local beers Three B’s, Hopstar and Big Clock, which are all brewed within five miles of the pub.  They also sell real ciders in various flavours, such as rhubarb and strawberry.

This new micropub, right across from Blackburn’s old town hall, is a real gem and refreshing in more ways than one.  The Drummer’s staff are very friendly and so are its clientele.  There are not only real ale enthusiasts calling in, but shoppers and workers from nearby offices and workplaces are starting to frequent the pub on a regular basis.

Inside there are displays of pub memorabilia, some you don’t notice at first, such as the tables and chairs.  But once you take hold of your barrel glass, you then start to remember when you came across some of these items.  I particularly like the round copper-topped table, which took me back to my misspent youth.  Some of the memorabilia is very interesting, but it is the pub signs on the walls which really do catch the eye of most customers.

Perhaps the most memorable pub sign in the Drummer’s is one from Blackburn’s closed down Fleece on Penny Street.  What makes it stand out is an uncanny resemblance between owner James and the sheep-shearer in this sign.  It also seems to symbolise comparisons between Blackburn’s former pub scene and what is starting to happen in the town centre now, this is thanks in large part to the Sir Charles Napier and Drummer’s Arms which have both helped spark new life into our local scene.

Maybe one day the Fleece and other neighbouring pubs will re-open and continue building this resurgence of Blackburn town centre.  It would be nice if some kind of ceremony with the sign could be organised for the new Fleece, if it ever opened.  Sadly, that doesn’t seem to on the horizon for the foreseeable future, those old pubs still remain in their mothballed state.  Fortunately we do have the brand new Drummer’s Arms and can look forward to further real ale enjoyment and a bright future.

What happened to Ronaldinho?

What happened to Ronaldinho? by Mick Pickup

Answer by Mick Pickup:

Venky's tried to bring Ronaldhino to Blackburn Rovers.  But no Rovers fan took it seriously.  It was seen as 'Marquee Signing', when we needed players who wanted to put a proper shift in.  The player was well past his best and seen as yet another football mercenary, only wanting to come to the club for one last big payday. 

Venky's even hired the Flash to be his bodyguard.  Sadly he was nowhere near as fast as the Flash and the deal fell through.

What happened to Ronaldinho?

Venky’s Say Stuff Rovers

Venky’s say they are sick of Blackburn Rovers fans making their lives a misery, so have come up with a scheme which almost makes death pleasurable. 

Roving Mick

Taken by Sylvia Larkin, courtesy of Blackburn Museum

 

They have decided to take their animal products empire forward to its logical conclusion.  From their origins as an egg hatchery, they now want to get involved in the other end of this process and set up their ultimate disposal solution of man’s best friend – pet funerals.

This idea came to the Venky’s following a recent visit they made to Blackburn Museum.  What caught the family’s imagination was a stuffed greyhound on display.  It was called ‘Bed of Stone’, a champion hare courser, who won the Waterloo Cup in 1872.  It was left to the people of Blackburn by a brother of William Briggs, who was a cotton magnate and one of Blackburn’s former MP’s.

Venky’s didn’t really understand the meaning of hare coursing, but liked the idea of creating a hare restorer – especially Balaji.  It made them want to pursue this issue further.  Someone also suggested stuffing animals – like they already do with chickens – would be a brilliant business opportunity for them.  Why bury or cremate your beloved Rover when you could keep a stuffed reminder of him in your house or garden for perpetuity?

It is also rumoured Venky’s had their first ever egg-laying hen stuffed in more ways than one.  It was freeze-dried and preserved out of gratitude for the start it gave them when they set up their own hatchery.

After their disastrous tenure at Blackburn Rovers, man’s best friend is the last thing anybody thinks of when it comes to our Indian owners.  ‘Johnny No Mates’ is probably a more appropriate label for Rovers’ absentee landlords.  Their description of our club as their ‘baby’ has also gone down badly with Rovers fans.  Many say Venky’s would be facing child abuse charges if Rovers was a real baby.  Some kind of FA Social Services is needed to take our club off them and put it up for adoption.

Venky’s have not ruled out building their own pet cemetary either.  After giving up on their plans to sell Rovers’ Brockhall training ground, other uses for it are now being explored.  Now they have almost killed off their pet football team, it looks like they might just as well leave us dead and buried in our own resting place.  Blackburn Rovers will then be well and truly stuffed.