Molly Murray memories of The Swan

by Molly Murray memories of The Swan

We had some lovely nights at The Swan at Yardley, but unfortunately, when they knocked it down, they didn’t build the new pub in the same fashion as the old, er, pub, which was a coaching inn for many years, erm, and it had a lot of history. But the new pub, er… it was massive. In fact, er, there were eight bars, I believe, when I f, when I started working there. And it did go into the Guinness Book of Records, of having the longest bar in Europe. Er, some of the rooms, er, that I remembered, they were all, er, furnished to match the name. So you had a Moroccan room, which was like sitting in the Kasbah. There was a Highland room, decorated with tartan, a Cygnet room, er, small, swans. And, there was also the Swan Lake Banqueting Suite, there was a French restaurant, there was a steak bar, there was the Silver Ring, which was mostly reserved for the gentlemen, er, with pictures of horses and jockeys all around.

And when I started there as a waitress, well, I was r, I really, erm, jumped in the deep end because I’d been doing a little bit of waitressing, er, but I wasn’t prepared, er, to work in their French restaurant. To start off with, I didn’t speak French, but it didn’t matter because the restaurant manager was Polish, the waitresses were Irish, the chef had, er…


came from Scotland and the other four chefs that were there were all Brummies. And although the menu was in French [chuckling], we never, ever, spoke in French or … wrote down any orders in French.

And I was totally confused. And then I realised, underneath, er, all the menu, er, was written in French but underneath each dish was the English translation. And it was quite funny because you’d have local people doing their best to speak the language, just to prove that they could order in French. And I remember one man, he’d got a lady with him, whether it was his wife, his girlfriend or his secretary I’ve no idea, but he was obviously trying to impress. And he stood there and he was looking at Joe and he said, er, that was the restaurant manager, he said, ‘Now, mademoiselle would like cotiletties dee agnoo grilles [ph] and with it, she’ll have choox flooer a la cremy oo ah gratin [ph]’. And Joe said, ‘Oh ok’, he said, ‘lamb chops and cauliflower cheese’.

A lot of local people re, will remember going there for their, perhaps their dinner and dances, er, the firm’s, er, Christmas do. And, er, it, there were, other functions there. They would have ABA, er, boxing, bouts going on, er, Fleetwood Mac appeared there, some of the very early gigs were at the Swan.

Can I take you back to the S, the… original Swan building, the old black and white one.

Oh, it, it was absolutely, it was really, really cosy in there, because, er, the m, m, modern thing now is leather seats but these were all f, there was always fabric seats. Er, it was always seemed very dark in there, there was lots of wood. And it was always very noisy, it was always full because downstairs, they had, er, a concert. Er, I can’t remember what night it was on, er, th, they, oh, you’d have had a concert downstairs and usually a dance upstairs, but the concert downstairs, anyone who thought they could sing, er, er, would get up on a mike and after a few drinks, a lot of them thought they could sing. So there was lots of noise. And, I’ve gotta say, I never, ever saw any fights, or… y, you hear about, you know, people taking knives and drugs and things into pubs. There was none of that. Er, people got merry… and they’d come out singing at the end of the night. But never ever, er, any gun crime, knife crime or anything like that, er, and no drugs being passed around. And then the upstairs, we girls would all sit on these chairs, er, along the one, er, side, of the, erm, the dance hall. And it was nearly always live music, lots of rock’n’roll. They’d slow it down at the end, so perhaps a young man, who hadn’t had the courage to dance with you all night, would come across and ask. And if you were sitting there, er, and your friends had got up to have a last dance and you were on your own, you’d get up just to, not be left on your own, otherwise you’d be called a wallflower,

Each room, had a different atmosphere. You had the young people going in the Moroccan bar, you had the men, er, talking sport in the Silver Ring… some of them the older generation, w, sorting out, er… what they were gonna have a bet on that day, the racing and what have you. And then you’d have the Highland room at the back, which probably was the equivalent, of the old lounge. And of course, in those days, everyone smoked. Everyone did. Er, and that’s something I remember about the, old Swan, was the ceilings in there were always a dark, creamy colour; not from the paint but from the constant smoking. And even at the new Swan, on every table there was an ashtray.

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