Remembering when pubs where the hub of social life

Photo: David Hurst'Former Landlord of The Tiger, Leyland, Tom Howarth with Tommy and Mary Lawton at the re-opening of The Railway

Photo: David Hurst'Former Landlord of The Tiger, Leyland, Tom Howarth with Tommy and Mary Lawton at the re-opening of The Railway

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A LEYLAND man who grew up in one of the town’s most famous pubs is bringing his expertise back home.

Tom Howarth was raised in the Leyland Tiger on Leyland Lane, and has dug into his family photo album to share his snap shots with Flashback.

He now works as an area manager for Amber Taverns, based in Preston, and is helping to relaunch the Queens Hotel pub on Golden Hill.

Looking back at his time working in Leyland, Tom says it’s a shame to see so many changes in the pub industry, but is a firm believer that traditional values will always hold strong.

“Pubs are the hub of social life,” he says. “And it’s sad that so many have gone by the wall.

“There used to be a pub on every doorstep.

“Leyland Motors used to be a huge employer in the town, and that helped the other industries.

“Around 15,000 workers would come out of the factories at 5 o’clock everyday, and most would go to their favourite pub to relax and have a drink.

“Those jobs don’t exist anymore, and people’s habits have changed over time.

“People drink at home a lot now because it’s cheaper, but you can’t recreate the atmosphere of a pub; they bring people together.

“When Lady Diana died, pubs were full of people who wanted to talk about it, and I think those values are still important today.”

Tom’s dad Ronnie took over the Tiger in 1959, when Tom was seven years old.

His mum, Jerry, also worked behind the bar, and Tom himself took the reigns after going to catering college, until he was about 27.

He helped organise the pub’s popular cabaret nights, which saw three acts perform, five nights a week.

“It was very busy and we had some great times,” he says. “The pub was quite small when we first arrived, but we extended it during the 1960s, with a room for the cabaret acts, and people would come from all over the North to visit the Tiger.

“We had coach parties coming for lunch and a show, and we also made cocktails. It was all very popular.”

Tom decided to leave his landlord title behind when wife Madeline became pregnant with their son, Anthony.

Tom then joined a company called Bass, which is now Mitchells and Butchers, and worked with pubs around the North of England for 28 years, including the Railway and Seven Stars in Leyland.

He retired three years ago, but found himself back in the business when he heard about the small firm, Amber Taverns, and joined the team as a part-time member of staff,

He’s now come full circle after announcing he will help reopen the Queens Hotel in Leyland.

He says: “My job is to be a mentor to landlords, and to help them make a pub successful.

“There have been some dramatic changes in the industry, but I think if people focus on providing good quality, good value food and drink in a welcoming atmosphere, they can be successful in this business.

“If you look at the Railway in Leyland, that has done a brilliant job, and my favourite is my local, the Wheatsheaf.

“The main difference I’ve noticed in Leyland over the years is that there has been a shift towards the Railway end of town, with the new Wetherspoons and the Gables.

“It used to be busier around the Leyland Cross area.”

Looking back on the Tiger’s demise, grandad Tom says it’s a shame that the pub was demolished to make way for a block of flats.

He says: “After I left, a new manager came in and gave it a theme to match the Tiger buses, with the seating and photos on the wall.

“That lasted a few years, but then it became a Hydrodome in the 1980s, with dancers on the bars.

“I’m sad that some people still associate the Tiger with that.”

He adds: “It closed down in around 1995, and was demolished in 2000.

“It was very sad to see – it was the end of an era – and I went down there with my son to watch it get taken down.

“We each picked up one of the bricks from the building, and I still have mine.”