Retired Vicar Celebrates 25 Years Behind the Bar

Retired vicar, Norman Atty and his wife Christine, are celebrating 25 years running the award-winning Dog Inn at Whalley this week.

Since taking on the pub, they have rooted it at the heart of community. So much so that regulars have asked Norman to officiate at marriages, christenings and funerals. While running the pub, Norman has acted as consort to the lady mayor 15 years ago, has been another mayor’s chaplain, sat on the parish council, been president of the chamber of trade and still is chaplain to the British Legion.

Norman commented: “My mother’s side of the family were involved with the hotel and licensed trade for generations and when I was in my 20s I thought I too would like to run a pub one day. When I retired as a vicar, the opportunity arose and I took it. I haven’t looked back.”

When Norman and Christine first took on the pub, its customers were students from the local mental health teaching hospital. After the hospital closed, they had to reinvent the pub to appeal to an older clientele.

Today, the pub is run as a family affair. Christine, who for 16 years taught at St Michael with St John primary school in Blackburn, joined Norman full-time when she retired 10 years ago. Around the same time, Christine’s son, Christopher Jay, also started work at the pub. With his help, the pub has built a reputation for great cask ale.

The Dog Inn has a strong local following and attracts regulars from 20 miles away as well as tourists. To Norman, its more than the quality of the pub’s food and drink that keeps customers coming back. It’s the family atmosphere, the listening ear and the warm welcome that everyone receives. The pubs motto is ‘show hospitality to strangers, for some have entertained angels unaware.’

Norman added: “There are similarities between the role of publican and vicar. I believe the clergy could learn a thing or two from pubs. All clergymen should be required to have a go running a pub, but not the other way around!

“It’s the customers and our loyal staff, some of whom have been with us for many years, that make running a pub so enjoyable.”

Says Lorna Willougby, business development manager at Star Pubs & Bars: “Norman and Christine are wonderful, hospitable landlords. They’ve established The Dog Inn as a popular local. A year ago, the pub and the village flooded bringing the community together in support of a common cause. Norman and Christine, together with the help of the Whalley Lions, provided coffee and sandwiches to the rescue services, to the police and any cold and hungry helpers. Locals were worried the pub might change when it was redecorated following the flood. They didn’t need to be, the homely, traditional character was preserved, much to everyone’s delight.”

As for Norman’s plans. The stool reserved for his use on the customer side of the bar is staying put as he has no intention of retiring anytime soon.