Harry Rutherford's
Festival of Britain Mural

Monday, 25 March 2013

Memories of the Unity Inn by Ken Smith

I have just been catching up on recent postings and came across the one about the closure of the Unity Inn in Hyde.
That establishment holds countless memories for my wife, Wynne, and I as it was Wynne’s mother, Jennie Cooper, who took over the license in 1960. We had just returned from Singapore where I had been serving with the RAF to be given the news of the move. Jennie had been the extremely successful licensee of the Grapes Hotel in Gee Cross for several years but family circumstances had forced her to move on. Stationed at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, some of our leaves were spent at the Unity, which became somewhat cramped as we now had our two children, Duncan and Debbie with us.
We left the RAF in 1966 and settled initially in Denton and as the children grew older and attended school Wynne began to work part-time for her mother, which was the start of an extremely successful partnership.
During this era pubs offered very little in the way of food – meat pies, crisps and nuts were about all that was on offer. Jenny was a very astute landlady and on Monday evenings, when the pub was quiet, she would put free food on the bar. It was simple fare – a bowl of cut-up tripe, simple sandwiches, potato pie, or black peas and cowheel, but it brought in the punters! Some of the ‘regulars’, who worked locally, suggested that if such food was available  they would be only too glad to partake of it along with their lunchtime pint and so, a whole new episode in the life of the Unity began.
Wynne was, and still is an excellent cook and began serving simple, freshly prepared food at lunchtimes. Everything she served was cooked from fresh produce including all the roasts and, as the menu increased, so did the lunchtime clientele, which now included many local businessmen, solicitors and doctors alongside the engineering workers from Adamson’s and the like. The kitchen at the Unity was tiny and ill-equipped and how she managed to produce such outstanding food, all of it to order, I will never know. Eventually, the pub was heaving at lunchtimes and, although there was no evening catering, many of the customers made The Unity their favourite evening ‘watering hole’. It also became very popular with the members of the local amateur dramatic societies who used it as their base when there was a production at the Festival Theatre. Over the following years, The Unity enjoyed considerable success which, undoubtedly, was in great part due to Wynne’s efforts, ability and dedication.
Jennie retired in 1988 when The Unity was taken over by Bill McDermott for whom Wynne carried on working. The character of the pub changed considerably under the stewardship of Bill and his partner Alma. Out went the organ, which had been played by Charlie Perrin on most evenings and which made the pub more attractive to older customers but lunchtimes continued as before.
The photograph of Jennie and Wynne in the bar of the Unity may remind some of your readers of whom I have been writing.

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Thank you so much for sending in your great memories, Ken.
Much appreciated ! :)


Werneth Low said...

I remember Charlie Perrin very well. He was a close friend of my father at one time, and his elder son, Peter, was in my class at Holy Trinity School. Did he and Jennie ever marry?

Noel Whiteley said...

The story brought tears to my eyes.