Tributes after legendary Hitchin pub landlord dies in Thailand
PUBLISHED: 10:12 18 June 2018 | UPDATED: 16:43 18 June 2018
Memories of joy, tears and above all getting barred have been shared after a giant of Hitchin’s past died at his adopted home in Thailand.
Frank Watson was landlord at The Red Hart in Bucklersbury for about two decades, and also ran other inns including Bancroft pub The Sunrunner and The Jester, off the A505 at Odsey. He did a lot of charity work, and was a major figure of Hitchin for years.
Frank retired about 15 years ago to the Thai seaside resort Pattaya – where he died peacefully at home on Wednesday last week.
Those paying tribute to Frank have included Julian Cakebread, who fittingly spoke to the Comet over a pint at the recently renamed Kite at The Red Hart.
“He’s part of Hitchin’s history,” said Julian, who knew Frank for more than half a century.
Graham King added: “We had smashing times with him at The Red Hart. I had my stag do there in 1975 – what an evening.”
Frank worked for an undertaker, was a taxi driver and repaired cars in Henlow before becoming a pub landlord. He was also a sometime band manager for groups including The Waders.
All agree his favourite words were “you’re barred” – though transgressors were invariably later forgiven and let back in.
Kit Galer recalled an occasion when he and other staff at the now-defunct Hitchin Gazette newspaper were on the picket line one cold winter, when Frank walked past and invited them into the pub to warm up afterwards.
“He wouldn’t let us buy a drink, and gave us free beer until the strike was over,” said Kit. “Smashing bloke.”
Sean Impey said he received a free pint from Frank on his 18th birthday – only for Frank to then remember Sean had been in the Red Hart darts team for two years already. He barred him for a week.
Dramatic incidents included a night when intruders tied up Frank while they robbed The Red Hart – which was the place to go in Hitchin during Frank’s time, with people packed into the alley down its side like sardines.
Frank fell in love with Thailand after taking holidays there, and spent a happy retirement enjoying golf, nights out and riding around on his moped.
The Comet understands from conversations with Frank’s friends that he had no surviving close family, and that his remains will be repatriated to the UK after a funeral in Thailand.
A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman confirmed it was in touch with the local authorities.