From jokers, to royalty, Pat Fallon saw it all at Wythenshawe’s Golden Garter, which is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its opening.
Some of the nation’s finest comedy talent and musicians played at the venue including the Rolling Stones, Shirley Bassey, Cliff Richard, Bob Monkhouse, Tommy Cooper and Dave Allen.
And Pat, who began as cloakroom attendant, before become bar manager at the club, recalls how the venue hosted the Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret.
“It used to be owned by Trust House Forte and Princess Margaret visited once,” she said. “They even changed the toilet for her! In the beginning it was a high-quality place and on a level with city venues. Towards the end, things became less formal.”
And memories of the top stars in the land are still fresh. Pat recalls: “There are many memorable times; I recall I took Diana Dors’ dress home to get a seam repaired – it was so heavy, all these feathers. With five kids in the house you can imagine what went on when I took that home.
“Dave Allen – he was a good comedian. I used to take his shirts home to wash them. He gave me a fantastic bottle of champagne, and I yes, it was true that he used to drink whisky. He was a peach. He used to give us £60 to share between us – that was a lot then.
“Freddie Starr was the biggest joker – he painted all the door handles once at the Garter. Tommy Cooper used to go in the pub across the road; trying to get him on stage was a nightmare. He had the biggest feet I’ve ever seen in my life! He was very quiet off stage, but it was always packed when he was on.
“Bob Monkhouse was the best ad-libber, the best comedian. Then there was Dusty Springfield, Shirley Bassey, Danny la Rue. Mike and Bernie Winters… so many of the big names came to the Garter.
“Most of the acts stayed for a week. My friend had the Royal Thorn – most of the acts, including the Rolling Stones and Cliff Richard – stayed there. We used to go back and have a drink with them. It was Cliff’s birthday one night – he was a belting fella.”
Pat was a mother of five at the time and said the tips she earned when she moved in to the bar kept her going. She said she enjoyed every day and staff got free tickets to other events including at the club’s sister venue the Talk of the Town in London.
“It was a fantastic place to work,” she said. “There were about 1,400 seats – it was all bow ties and evening dress initially – then they eased off on the dress code and then it ended up they couldn’t afford the good acts so went to the lower end.”
Past employees from the Golden Garter will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the club opening, on 7 October, at Wythenshawe Cricket Club.
This article also appears in Your Local Voice, out now.