You couldn’t really have called the Yacht in Oakenholt my local. Firstly because it wasn’t really local. It was in Flint which was 3 or 4 miles away from my home in Connah’s Quay which had at least 8 pubs of its own. And secondly because I didn’t go there that often because I was living away from home anyway. It’s just that I went there more often than I went to any other pub in the locality.
The Yacht was run by John Rickards’ father, Harry, I don’t know if he owned it or was a tenant, and John went to Hawarden Grammar School with me through the early 60s. I recently gave the eulogy at his funeral but that’s another story. John and I became friends and throughout my time working in London I used to drop into the Yacht whenever I returned to Connah’s Quay. This habit continued and I guess it only ceased when John’s father gave up the pub and the family moved to Ewloe around about 1980.
Rather surprisingly in these days of frequent and lamented pub closures the Yacht is still there. It’s an unexciting building, probably dating back to the pre-war days, and when I knew it it boasted neither a garden nor a car park. Its floor plan was modest with just a single bar and a couple of rooms off it. I remember a function room upstairs but I don’t think it was ever used.
Harry seemed to have little ambition for the Yacht, he just seemed happy running a good local and there’s a lot to be said for that. There were other pubs in Flint but they were a good walk away and I guess it had enough captive trade to keep the bank manager happy. Because it was a small pub Harry could run it on his own although John helped when he was old enough. John’s mother also helped out in the bar if it was needed but I always felt that she didn’t really approve of drinking.
Whenever I visited I’d drive up and park out the front. There was no wall and nothing outside. I used to talk to John of course but I remember three other regulars who always seemed to be happy to talk to me.
Names escape me but one was a farmer who lived nearby. He would tell me about the ups and downs of farming and the impact of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. I remember chancing upon him one very wet Saturday evening when Juni and I drove along the road after our UK wedding reception as we headed off towards Llandudno. A second was deaf and dumb and engaged us all through enthusiastic sign language. It seemed to work both ways. His wife was also deaf and dumb but they had a house full of noisy children. The third always wanted to talk to me about my travels and seemed especially interested in my experience in Japan. Some time later I heard that he’d fought in Burma in the war and it seems his past and its demons finally caught up with him when he sadly took his own life. I was pretty full of myself in those days and didn’t spend enough time understanding others’ stories when I was so busy telling my own.
The Yacht has not just survived. It seems also to have adapted to the times and there are tables out front and a beer garden at the back. Walls have been knocked down and there’s a smart new bar which sports a proper coffee machine. They serve ‘cooked food’ and a Sunday roast and there are poker and quiz nights. It’s Facebook page even talks of Karaoke nights. It’s opening up again after the constraints of Covid and fingers crossed it will continue to flourish. It clearly does a good job in ministering to its local clientele and that gives it an important role these days. You don’t need any ambition beyond that.