Also thanks to my friend Liz Mills, who went out of her way to take this photo of the once proud Royal Oak on Ashbourne Road, where I spent many happy hours. Seems like a good place to start. I need to reiterate that these stories are in no particular order, it's stream of consciousness stuff. As I remember the stories I'll tell them. There could well be a part three if people like them enough. Let's go to the bar, eh?
Frank was a truly wonderful host, who loved his beer and his music in equal measure. There was an old piano in the pub, and we'd spend many happy hours playing and singing. As I recall, probably because it was out of town, the then draconian licensing laws weren't so vehemently enforced at The Abbey.
I remember as a youngster seeing men queuing outside on Friday evenings waiting for it to open. Their working week in the mill had finished, they'd probably given the housekeeping money to the wife, and this was the start of the weekend. It was a regular pub back in the 1970s, and again when I returned to Leek in 2004.
If police picked up a suspected drink-driver, the accused had to "walk the white line" at the nick. There was only one doctor who was "qualified" to make this assessment. It came to a head one evening when the doctor was called, and the driver refused to be tested, saying he'd seen the doctor buy a bottle of whisky earlier that evening. Police were forced to call in a doctor from Stoke; by the time he arrived the driver was sober, and there were red faces all round.
This was an easy walk from home and full of good friends, whether it was lunchtime of evening. It didn't do food as a rule, and we'd meet after work, bringing different cheeses to sample along with the excellent ale. If there was a darts match, however, there'd be a feast fit for a king. This was another pub with somewhat flexible opening hours.