The Westbourne

Sometimes you write about something and just one word or phrase prompts another memory – and so it happened yesterday with the mention of “The Bishop” Jess Yates.

But before we move onto one of his protegés tomorrow you need some background information on a pub in Otley that will become the backdrop to this – The Westbourne.

The Westbourne was a large roadhouse stylee pub of the sort known better as “an estate pub” in that its main purpose was to serve its local housing estate – but the Westbourne landlord had bigger ambitions.

The main room in the pub was big, big enough to have supported a dance floor at some time in its history but the days when people went to their local pub for a dance were long gone by the time we got to hear of The Westbourne in 1977.

Instead they had a DJ on a Friday and Sunday night, a DJ who played lots of loud rock music, lots of Thin Lizzy, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and the like, interspersed with, shall we say “competitions” free beer as prizes for those brave enough to enter without first knowing what the competition was that week.

Eating competitions were always popular – four small round tables on stage containing the items to be eaten but covered by a cloth until the competition started – and four idiots from the audience who had drunk enough beer not to care what was under the cloth.

St Davids day revealed a bunch of daffodils on each table, not really too bad actually, I’ve eaten a daff before, the leaves taste like perfumed lettuce but strangely none of them would touch the plants and the competition was cancelled that week.

The week that the cloths were pulled back to reveal a two pound block of lard on each table was a bit more succesful, three of them dropped out after one bite but one big fat lad ploughed on, cheered on by the audience who cringed on every bite, but mainly driven by the prize of three pints if he finished all of the lard, unfortunately he threw up all over the stage just before he got to the end and rather than re-eat the lard again he retired.

After that the landlord warned the DJ not to pull any more stupid stunts during his eating competitions and so for a couple of weeks we got the very staid “eat four Jacobs Cream Crackers without a drink” sort of thing until he pulled the master stroke that got him the sack – a fishcake eating competition.

The week of the fishcake eating competition was pre-announced so that the entrants knew exactly what was underneath the table cloths, or at least they thought they did.

There was no shortage of entrants, they were queueing to eat the fishcakes but four lucky lads were chosen, the drunkest in the queue were chosen, along with the big fat lad who had puked during the lard eating competition, they each took up their position behind the covered tables and at the signal pulled back the cloths to reveal..four fishcakes.

That is, four breadcakes in which was placed a full, dead, uncooked fish.

That was it, the landlord threw them all off stage, especially the fat one who almost had the “fishcake” in his mouth and he gave the DJ five minutes to pack his stuff and clear off.

The following week was a different DJ – with strippers.

How childish did the eating competitions seem now as three females slowly removed every piece of clothing right there in front of us, EVERY piece of clothing, mind none of them were in the first flush of youth (unlike us), and a couple of them bore what looked suspiciously like hysterectomy scars, the third we couldn’t tell because the numerous folds of flesh around her midriff would have covered the evidence, still, strippers eh, whoah-ho !

They came on for the second act together, undressing each other and then finishing off with a fire eating act which left behind a faint whiff of burnt pubes when they’d finished, still it wasn’t bad entertainment for a Friday night, especially for free.

This continued for several months until one evening we arrived and from the car park noticed that the main room looked suspiciously empty, on entering the bar our attention was drawn to a large poster advertising an appalling local showband called “The Poole Family”…

to be continued…


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