Derby

Derbyshire landlady behind the bar for 60 years

When Olive Wilson and her husband took charge of the Royal Oak pub in 1953, she thought they would probably be there for "a few years".

Next year she will be celebrating 60 years in charge.

The 85-year-old is thought to be one of the longest-serving landladies in England - and at a time when large numbers of pubs are closing nationwide, she said business was booming.

Mrs Wilson now runs the Ockbrook pub, in Derbyshire, with daughters, Jean and Sally, and son-in-law Stephen - although she tends to look after the finances rather than pull pints.

Image caption Mrs Wilson with her husband Lewis and his mother outside the pub in 1953

Back when she and her husband took over the village pub, a pint of mild would cost 11 old pence (4p) with a pint of bitter setting you back a shilling (5p).

Mrs Wilson said: "At first I wasn't sure if I was going to like it because it was a lot of late nights and early mornings.

"I had to run the place on my own during the day while my husband went out to work at the railway.

"I would put a cheeseboard on the counter and make up some cobs if anyone wanted anything to eat."

Mrs Wilson would usually be the only woman in the pub and balanced keeping the customers in beer with domestic chores.

"I didn't have any children when we first came to the pub but after we'd had them, it was quite a big job," she said.

"If the baby was crying, I'd bring her down from upstairs and put her behind the bar in a high chair. Of course she loved that."

'Good listener'

The couple eventually bought the pub outright using Lewis's retirement money and Mrs Wilson kept it on after he died in 1994.

Reflecting on her 60 years in charge, she said surprisingly little had changed.

"People just like to get out, don't they. They used to play darts then and they still do now," the 85-year-old said.

Image caption Ms Wilson said the pub benefited from a large function room

"They used to play cards and dominoes - and they're still doing all of that now too."

Mrs Wilson said the business had been largely unaffected by the recent economic downturn that has seen many other pubs in the area close down.

She said: "We must be doing something right. Having a big room at the back helps. We have a lot of parties - birthdays, wedding, funerals.

"The customers have always wanted to talk and luckily I've always been a good listener - I still am now.

"I think owning the pub ourselves makes a big difference too. It gives you a lot of independence.

"And, of course, serving good beer never does you any harm."

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