Do you remember where you were when First Minister Mark Drakeford addressed the people of Wales and said the nation would be entering its first coronavirus lockdown?
Jan and Clive Gale certainly do. The couple had just taken over the lease of the Welsh Black pub in Bow Street four days earlier.
“We signed the lease on 16 March 2020,” explains the affable Clive. “We opened the doors on Friday, 20 March at 4pm. At 6pm, they announced the lockdown, and at 10pm we closed again for six months.”
Just six hours trading for months before things slowly began to open up.
“It was good,” Jan interjects. “It gave us a chance to clean up the place because the previous landlord left it in a terrible state.”
If you’re a regular at the pub that’s about 300 yards from Bow Street station, you’ll know that the husband-and-wife team have turned it into a community hub, one where there’s good atmosphere and great food in plate-busting portions.
But now the pair have decided to call it time on their stewardship of the Welsh Black and are looking forward to retirement.
Jan is 68 and has health issues. “My legs can’t do it anymore. The hours are too long,” she says.
Clive’s 67. “I’m Jan’s toy boy,” he chuckles.” But his mother is 94 and his dad is 92, they’re back in Hertfordshire and so too are their three children — and the retiring landlords want to spend more time with their family.
The biggest fear was that the Welsh Black would close its doors and that the community hub would cease to exist.
The bad news is that according to business data, 32 pubs a month on average close their doors in the UK.
The good news?
The Welsh Black is getting a new lease on life.
Glyn Edwards, originally from the village, is taking over the pub on 2 October. He and his wife, Umarin, currently run the popular Saphan Thai restaurant on Bridge Street in Aberystwyth.
“We will still keep Saphan open,” Glyn told the Cambrian News. “It’s very popular and will continue to operate as normal. Umarin will be taking over the restaurant in the Welsh Black, so it will be serving Thai food and then the traditional carvery on Sundays. It’s very popular now, so we plan to keep that.”
The change in identity will be taking place 2 October — just in time for the new darts league starting off.
“We’ll be keeping the Welsh Black as a quiet, community pub, just as it is now,” Glyn says. “No loud music. No pool table. Just as Jan and Clive have it now. It might close for a few days for some decorating, but it will largely stay as it is.”
Running a pub had always been at the back of Clive’s mind during his years serving as a policeman and detective with Hertfordshire Constabulary. His father was a policeman too. And also ran a pub — The Swan in Markyate — for a few years after he retired.
“That’s how I got into cooking,” Clive explains. “Jan and I would run the place when he was on holidays, and we’d do the cooking too.”
But it’s a long way from St Albans to Bow Street. How did that happen?
Jan was running care homes back there while Clive was patrolling the beat. So, when the chance came to go with Jan’s parents for a fortnight to Glan Y Mor in Clarach Bay, they jumped at it
“It’ll always be Glan Y Mor to me and most people,” Jan interjects. “I don’t know how the new owners got away with changing the name.”
But that fortnight holiday started with a session with Len and Sue, the managers at the bar at Glan Y Mor, and those drinks sealed a very long love affair between the Gales and the area — one going back 36 years.
“We would come back each summer and rent a caravan, then we bought one and my retirement from the police was getting closer,” explains Clive. “Eventually, when I had five years left to go, we bought our house in Bow Street, and we lived between Hertfordshire and here.”
His interest in cooking and catering grew after he moved down to Ceredigion full time and has helped set up and run restaurants in the locality.
The last year hasn’t been easy, Clive admits, with gas and electricity bills doubling, quickly adding that wasn’t a factor in the couple’s decision to retire. It’s just it’s a younger person’s game.
“It is going to be a bit of a change when we retire,” he admits. “I won’t know what to do with myself. I won’t have to go to Bookers and organise food and meat. That’ll be a big change.”
Not to worry, Jan says, she has a list of things that need doing. Besides, the couple will likely be returning to the Black in January when the new landlord and his wife go on a month’s holidays.
“We’re both very proud of what we did at the Welsh Black,” Jan says. Sure enough, the couple have helped raise more than £2,000 for the RNLI and the Blood Bikes.
“I think it’s important to be part of the community and to help out where we can,” Jan said. During their time at the Welsh Black, it became home to regular Women’s Institute meetings, so too the local stroke club.
“We’ve made a lot of friends during our time here,” Jan says. “A lot of the customers were friends before we took it over, and they’ll be friends for life. And we made a lot of new friends too.”
So, no regrets then?
“Absolutely not,” Jan says. And Clive agrees. “I always agree. She’s the boss.”