Is Frank Collins the oldest pub landlord in the country?
The 87-year-old is still pulling pints at the late 18th century Dog and Partridge inn in a windswept, rural idyll called Sowood, near Outlane, which his father Jack bought back in the 1950s.
And he says he has no intention of hanging up his pint pot any time soon and taking it easy despite surviving three major cancer scares over the years.
Beer, it seems, is in his blood. He was three-years-old when JacK bought The Grey Horse, now a Tesco store, at Birchencliffe, just a few miles away, in 1932, and the beer gene was distilled through him.
His mum Mabel was the landlady before him and was such a well-loved and formidable character that although she died aged 95 in May 2001, Sowood residents still look baffled when newcomers ask for directions to the Dog and Partridge, Forest Hill Road/Park Road End, Stainland.
“Aaah”, they say, eventually, after much head scratching, “you mean, ‘Mabel’s’, lad.”
The pub itself is as quirky as Frank himself and filled with all manner of old photographs and memorabilia including four glass-fronted cabinets filled with Corgi model buses as well as an old mill clock with a draconian sign informing employees they would be instantly dismissed if they tried to check in as someone else.
It is a traditionalist pub-goer’s dream.
There is no jukebox and certainly no fruit machines just the sound of contented regulars slurping away at their cask beer.
There’s not even the ring of a till as Frank has stayed true to the tradition of using a simple plastic, red coin collector with notes kept in a beer glass.
The only time there is any discernible noise is when Frank gets playing on the piano knocking out old Cockney classics such as Knees Up Mother Brown and other old-time hits.
Not that it has been all beer.
A talented businessman with a natural knack for closing a deal, he has spent decades cris-crossing the country reckoning up the price of metres of yarn at textile auctions.
Even now well into his ninth decade, ‘Uncle’ Frank as he is known to many, still thinks nothing of driving his silver Mercedes with trailer across the UK before coming home to pull pints of an evening and catch up on the latest gossip.
Frank said his father began negotiations to buy the pub from a Mary Lumb in 1955. She was anxious to sell as the pub wasn’t doing very well but when news spread that Jack was going to take over business picked up and Mary decided not to sell.
Frank said: “But after a while people realised my father wasn’t coming and trade slipped again. My dad said you have accepted my cheque as a deposit and she eventually realised what a mess she had made and we ended up taking over in March 1956.”
Sadly, he did not live long after the deal was clinched and Mabel took over with 27-year-old Frank helping out serving regulars from the off.
Later when his mother was no longer able to run the pub he took over and that is the way it has remained ever since with his name registered as licencee from 2000.
Frank added: “The Calderdale police inspector told me that if I took the licence there would be no objection and when I saw the magistrates they asked me to pass on their best wishes to my mother.
“I’ve loved being here, it’s been great. Sometimes you get winds that are 100mph and the building shakes. But I have enjoyed everything and I have been very lucky.
“I have had cancer three times, the last episode was 17 years ago and I’m still here. When my time comes I would like to be taken out of here in a box.
“My mother was in the Guinness Book of Records for being England’s oldest and longest serving landlady and I don’t think there’s a landlord older than me in the Huddersfield/Halifax area though there might be someone in the Dales, perhaps.”
The pub has a history of one family running it for a long time with the Broadbent family holding the licence for 150 years.
One of Frank’s nieces, Alison McKenna, said: “My grandma was in the Guinness Book of Records and I don’t know but I should imagine he must be getting on for being one of the oldest landlords in the country.
“I don’t know where he gets the energy from.”