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Bringing Bermudian hospitality to Britain

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Benjamin Smith is now managing the Manor Inn in Oldham, Greater Manchester, after the owners were impressed by his enthusiasm for the hospitality industry (Photograph supplied)

There’s gallons of lager on tap, brass to polish and a ghost to handle.

Bermudian publican Benjamin Smith has never been happier.

The 48-year-old became manager of Manor Inn, a pub in Oldham, Greater Manchester, three months ago.

“I came over here to raise my three-year-old daughter, Kiera,” said Mr Smith, former manager of Swizzle Inn. “Her mother moved over here, and I followed because I wanted to be in my daughter’s life.”

It took him about a year to find the job. He often hung out at the pub while he was looking for work as it is directly across the street from his daughter’s home.

“Then one day someone from the pub came to me and said they were looking for a manager,” Mr Smith said.

Owners Dorbiere Pub Group liked his enthusiasm for the hospitality industry, so he was hired.

“I am really proud to be part of this trade,” said Mr Smith. “It is dying out. There used to be more than 300 pubs in Oldham, and now you can count the number of them on your hand. It feels good to be helping to keep a tradition alive.”

In fact, Manor Inn was in the shadow of the axe before Mr Smith came along.

“Things are going well now,” he said. “I’m proud to say we’re meeting our targets. During the week we tend to have a lot of pensioners as the neighbourhood is a working one.

“Things get really busy around here on weekends, though. The place has a family atmosphere, although I make sure the children, including my daughter, are out of the pub by 8pm.”

He said many of his regulars are following in the footsteps of their grandparents and great-grandparents.

In terms of Oldham drinking habits, he said he was going to rewrite the song ‘Bermudians Love to Drink’ into ‘Oldham Loves to Drink’.

“They don’t tend to drink a lot of spirits,” he said. “But I pour gallons and gallons of lager and ale during the week. They particularly love Foster’s.”

He does get the odd Bermudian wandering through; many live in nearby Manchester.

“I’ve had several Bermudian DJs working here,” he said. “I’m thinking of holding a Bermuda night. I was thrilled when Janeiro Tucker of the Southampton Rangers turned up. He was just passing through Manchester.”

Mr Smith has tried to insert a Bermudian flavour into food served on Sundays.

“We have a football team and families often come in with their children after the game,” said Mr Smith. “I’ve served up codfish cakes, curried chicken and rice and macaroni and cheese. They love it. They particularly love Johnny Bread. They are always asking for it.”

So far, he has experienced little culture shock living in the north of England.

“I already knew a lot of the regulars from coming into the pub regularly,” he said. “Early on, I called Jay Correia, owner of the Swizzle Inn, and expressed concern about it being a different culture.

“He passed on these words to me: ‘Benjamin, it’s a different country, but the principals of good hospitality remain the same. Whatever led to your success at the Swizzle Inn, do the same there’.”

He took Mr Correia’s advice to heart and has tried to infuse the place with warm Bermudian hospitality.

“I’ve brought in customers by simply going out into Oldham and talking to people and telling them about the pub,” he said. “I try to go the extra mile to make sure my customers are taken care of. I love taking care of people.

“I also take care of the building. It is 200 years old. If there is something that needs repairing I put my elbow to it and fix it. When I first took over, the brass in the pub hadn’t been polished in years. So I got down to it and polished it until it looked really nice.”

The reaction from his customers made the effort worthwhile. “One lady said she was crying happy tears,” Mr Smith said. “Her late father ran the pub in the 1980s and had spent his weekends polishing up the brass. She said seeing the brass all polished again made her feel like he was with her.”

Although he hasn’t seen a ghost, he said its 200-year history made it likely there was one.

“I live upstairs,” he said. “I was in my bedroom last night and I went to light a cigarette. I thought, ‘Should I turn on the fan or open the window?’ I thought I would open the window.”

The fan switched on of its own accord.

On another occasion he went into the pub cellar, carefully closing the door and barring it behind him. He came back up the cellar stairs and found the door wide open and unbarred. “There’s no way anyone could have opened it,” he said. “Someone from the pub said, ‘You know you’re haunted?’. I said, ‘I know, I’ve already met the ghost’. I’m not bothered by it.”

Benjamin Smith, former manager of the Swizzle Inn, says the Manor Inn pub’s 200-year history means there may be a resident ghost (Photograph supplied)
Benjamin Smith with cricket player Janeiro Tucker (Photograph supplied)