TV comic Paddy McGuinness dropped in for a pint with regulars at The Royal Oak in Linthwaite, to celebrate after their local was named the winner of a national competition to find Britain’s most extraordinary pub.
We teamed up with John Smith’s to find pubs that just like its beer, are Only Ordinary By Name.
Hundreds of nominations flooded in from across the country for pubs that might seem ordinary at first glance but have an extraordinary story to tell.
And an expert judging panel picked The Royal Oak from dozens of pubs who had been chosen as regional winners after thousands of votes from the public.
As well as enjoying a pint of John Smith’s and a chat with landlady Jeanne Brennan, Paddy also laughed and joked with regulars Bob and Lily Day, Sheila Haigh, Elaine Wainwright, Linda Eastwood, Michelle Murphy and Sherri Crabtree.
Jeanne has been running The Royal Oak, a traditional pub just outside Huddersfield, with her family for 14 happy years, and in that time she has made it the heart of the local community.
The pub puts on events and entertainment every night of the week, as well as an annual fireworks night which sees more than 3,000 people packed into the large beer garden, Yorkshire Day celebrations, race nights, a Halloween party, and even a panto at Christmas time.
Jeanne said: “The sense of community here is absolutely brilliant. They support everything we do. Our locals always take part in the panto. They volunteer, then they turn up and I dress them.”
Paddy joked: “You do an annual Yorkshire day. As a Lancashire lad I’m not too sure about that!”
Jeanne laughed: “You could have come and joined in the tug of war.”
For locals, the family-run pub is the bedrock of the community. Mark Downer said: “What I really like about this place I think is the sense of family, the sense of belonging, lots of activities here, social inclusion... it’s more than a pub.”
And other customers agreed that the pub’s unique charm is all down to landlady Jeanne, along with her husband Bob, whom she met and fell in love with in the pub after he won dinner with her in a Valentine’s Day charity raffle.
Sherri Crabtree said Jeanne is the pub’s driving force, and goes out of her way to tirelessly help everyone in the local community, young and old.
She added: “She’s always just there for us, she really is. Jeanne’s a great organiser, always sorting things out for every party or event.
“She always does everything for the kids as well, and she’s always thinking ahead. She’s a right good organiser and thinks outside the box.
“And they never charge for the live music on a Saturday night, or the quiz. Most other places will charge for people to enter, but not Jeanne.”
The locals told Paddy that Jeanne’s personality fills the pub, and her quiz is one of the highlights of the week.
“There are no airs and graces, she just picks you up and makes you laugh,” added Sherri. “The quiz is brilliant, very comical. She screams down the microphone ‘You’re not Googling under that table are you?’.”
“Some regulars live down the road and others travel from further afield. The fact that people are willing to travel to a place like this – well, that just speaks for itself.
“Jeanne really is a fantastic lady. We should all say thanks to her because she gives us such an amazing time.”
Last year, Jeanne even hosted Sherri’s wedding reception. Her pal added: “She’s my best bud. Jeanne walked me down the aisle and then the reception was here at The Royal Oak. It was out of this world.”
The Royal Oak has also become well known as a local music hub, with regular live bands and solo acoustic shows.
Musician Steve Horsfall wrote on the pub’s Facebook page: “My band played at The Royal Oak last night and it proper rocked... great atmosphere – reminds us why we do it!
“The pub is run by a cracking couple who really know how to look after a band... can’t wait to go back!”
Running the pub, looking after the community and staging regular events means Jeanne rarely gets time to put her feet up.
She told Paddy: “I never take a day off... well, I have two hours off on a Sunday.”
Paddy said: “The locals love you, and you do a lot of events, but it probably doesn’t seem like work does it?”
Jeanne laughed: “You should see me on a morning love!”
As well as staging popular events, the pub has also raised thousands for good causes since Jeanne took over, and she also looks out for people in the wider community.
She said: “We’ve raised £36,000 for charity over the years, and for local people too.
“If someone is having a hard time, sometimes they’ll get a little envelope through the door.” Jeanne also puts on an annual pensioners’ Christmas dinner, with decorations, gifts and, of course, plates of delicious roast turkey and all the trimmings, lovingly cooked by Jeanne herself, with a little bit of help from her loyal customers and friends.
She told Paddy: “Everything we can celebrate we do. If it’s the cat’s birthday we’ll have a party. Any excuse.
“But my highlight is the pensioners’ Christmas party. We have around 45 of them. They all come down and I make sure they all get a present.
“We put entertainment on for them, we’ve had brass bands here and singers too. This year, I’m going to book a local male voice choir to make the night even more magical.”
Before he left, Paddy handed over the Only Ordinary By Name winner’s cheque for £5,000, including £500 for the winning landlady, and £4,500 to spend on improvements for customers.
And Jeanne has no doubt about how she will spend the money – on bringing even more people in the community together.
Jeanne said the competition prize money will help her run a Home Alone club and she told Paddy: “We’re organising flyers to go out to every house – are you home alone, are you wanting some company?
Come here every alternate Wednesday, I’ll put tea and sandwiches on, game of dominoes, game of cards, game of bingo.
“And I want to organise trips, like taking them to Emmerdale Farm for a day. I want them to have something to look forward to instead of sitting there looking at four walls.
“The cash will really help us to help people not be alone – not just at Christmas, but all the year round, which is something I feel strongly about.”
With such a brilliant landlady, loyal locals, vibrant community spirit and, of course, the perfect pint of
John Smith’s on tap, The Royal Oak is a worthy winner of the Only Ordinary By Name competition.
Jeanne Brennan tells us what it's really like to be the national winner
So Jeanne, how did it feel when you found out The Royal Oak was the national winner of the John Smith’s Only Ordinary By Name competition?
I was ecstatic. I just can’t describe the feeling. I was dancing around the pub!
The competition celebrated pubs that sound ordinary, but have an extraordinary story behind them. What makes The Royal Oak stand out?
We have somewhere in the region of 500 pump clips on the wall – one for every beer we’ve ever served in the 16 years we’ve been running the pub. We always have something going on at the pub. We have quiz nights, band nights, acoustic nights on a Friday with solo artists, and we don’t charge for any of it. And we have two darts teams, two pool teams and football on a Wednesday.
You were voted the regional Only Ordinary By Name winner first, before the judging panel chose you as the national winner. How did you drum up support from locals?
We used Facebook, I made leaflets for people to take home, and we put it on the website, asking people to vote for us if they thought we deserved to win.
And when someone bought a pint, we asked them to vote for us too. It’s a big thing for people to vote, so it’s amazing that people did it. I still can’t believe it!
Paddy McGuinness came down to celebrate with you and to hand over your winner’s cheque for £5,000. What was that like?
It was unbelievable having him here – a day I’ll never forget, let’s put it that way.
Have you had any other famous guests in the pub?
I’ve had Bruce Jones come in, who played Les Battersby on Coronation Street, and a few other stars from Corrie. They may be famous, but in the pub they were lovely, right down to earth people.
Please drink responsibly