TONIGHT (November 22nd), at approximately 11:30pm, the bell will ring and last orders at Carmarthen Road’s The Bird in Hand will be called out one final time. Punters will drink up, lights will go out and the doors will finally shut on the community’s favourite pub.
Over its 200 year lifetime the pub has seen a small army of owners, from families to Breweries. The pub had been owned by Bass Breweries until 1995, when it was bought by giant conglomerate Mitchell and Butlers and became the newest member of the Sizzling Pubs chain. The pub thrived until it’s final takeover in 2017 by Milton Pubs & Taverns.
Now, unfortunately the company has decided to close the pub permanently due to financial difficulties and The Bird in Hand becomes the latest fatality in a long list of lost British watering holes. Many factors have played a part in the demise of the sacred British pub such as tax and alcohol prices, the smoking ban and culture changes. Technology’s colossal impact on how we live our lives has also been a contributing factor that suggests people are more inclined to stay at home than visit their local pubs.
Despite the revolutionary changes this past decade has seen The Bird in Hand remains to be an important pillar of the Fforest/Pontarddulais community. The pubs cream walls and red carpets has hosted wedding receptions, wake’s, christening parties and is a favourite amongst locals on New Year’s Day where crowds of punters mean that it’s nearly impossible to walk from one part of the pub to the other.
The Bird – as it’s affectionately known to regulars – has also devoted time and effort in order to raise money for charities such as Latch, the Welsh Children’s Cancer Charity and Cancer Research UK with events such as their annual bike ride and manager Helen Thomas’ sponsored head shave.
Now, as these special occasions turn into memories, people at the heart of the pub’s history, nostalgically reminisce about how it played host to memorable events in their own lives. Melissa Curran’s family -The O’Neills have a long standing history with the pub as it was passed down through generations. Her Grandfather owned it from 1915 and five members of her family were born in the pub including her own father in 1921.
‘I have really lovely memories of family occasions held there and the times we have met there on sadder occasions. In the back room of the pub there was a picture of my grandfather with his football club as a young man,’ recalls Melissa.
From the past to the present, the pub has impacted the lives of its owners, workers and loyal customers; no one more so than Helen Thomas who currently manages The Bird in Hand and has been there for the past decade.
‘For me personally, I am heartbroken that the pub I have grown to love has not been given the attention and focus it desperately needed from its owners and has been practically abandoned by the wayside. I am sure many of the locals will share my sentiment and will be deeply saddened by the loss of The Bird,’ expresses Helen.
Unfortunately, big companies buying these local pubs, neglecting to invest any money in them and then selling them when they fail to be a financial success has become somewhat of a recurring pattern. Meanwhile, communities, managers and workers bear the burden.
As the pub has survived through two centuries it has waved goodbye to generations of families and regulars but remained a constant throughout the community. Tonight, however, the community waves goodbye to it and toasts a final glass to the memories that they have shared at their old friend – The Bird.