BBC home
BBC home

Mick and Norma Whelan

This pair could give any brewery an object lesson in how to run a pub. Sadly, they are now out of the business but from the time they took over the Victoria Arms in Binfield (and turned into a gem of a local) they turned regulars into friends and fed and watered them with top-notch home cooking and, most importantly, the best kept Fuller's beers bar none. Since 1980, I don't think there was a single recorded case of a bad pint served out of any of the cellars run by Mick.

And in the days when Fuller's managed houses could run their own kitchen instead of having standard menus, Norma's pub grub was unbeatable. Once tasted, never forgotten: Sandwich Americain, locally made ESB Sausages, Norma Burgers, Oysters in Guiness Batter, decent chips, proper bread, local ingredients - all well prepared and served with care. Yummy!

As far as Mick and I can remember, there are only three people who have ever visited all of the pubs he managed: him, Pete the Steam and me. So let's see if the memory holds out: Victoria Arms, Binfield; New Found Out, Hitchin; Flowing Spring, Sonning Common; Rose and Crown, Ealing; Coach and Horses, Wallingford; Master Brewer, Hillingdon; Warwick Arms, Earls Court; Master Robert, Hounslow; Master Brewer (again), Hillingdon. (I didn't go to the Wotton Hatch in Dorking but then he was only a trainee so doesn't count!)

The birth of their firstborn, John, was marked by the first celebration ale bottled by the BBC. There is still a bottle in the extensive bottle collection built up by Mick and left behind at the Vic.

The everyday drinker's life is the poorer now that Mick and Norma are no longer running pubs - but for the way they ran the most welcoming pubs with the best grub and beer - and the finest crowd of regulars it has ever been my pleasure to drink with, Mick and Norma Whelan will always be BBC Heroes.