Saturday, 20 August 2022

Publican ‘Happy’ Harry Caffrey finally calls time

HARRY Ernest Caffrey passed away peacefully at home on May 15, aged 77.

HARRY Ernest Caffrey passed away peacefully at home on May 15, aged 77.

An only child for Alice and Ernest, he was born in Heywood, Manchester, but the family soon moved south and he attended Earley St Peter’s and then Reading Blue Coat School.

Harry’s National Service was spent in the military police, where his rather unusual duties included retrieving errant soldiers from houses of ill repute in Paris!

In 1958, he met the love of his life, Pat. They married in May 1962 and their daughter Sarah was born the following year.

Having tried his hand selling variously insurance, milk and bacon, Harry finally found his true forte — selling beer.

In partnership with Pat’s parents, they took on their first pub, the Little Crown in Southampton Street, Reading, and soon grew to love the publican life.

Going it alone, they took on The Lion in Great Knollys Street, conveniently located across from the Reading Cattle Market.

The couple became famous for their steaks as well as their beer and their ability to create a convivial atmosphere in the pub. After a three–year interlude in Somerset, the family returned to the Reading area to take over the Baskerville Arms in Shiplake.

The couple soon became the heart and soul of the village and regulars would gather at the bar, sharing stories and enjoying Harry’s wit and dry sense of humour.

A favourite prank was cutting the end off unsuspecting customers’ club, school or society ties! Together, Pat and Harry were an intoxicating duo and the pub flourished. When not behind the bar or enjoying a smoke of his faithful pipe, Harry tried to spend time at Henley Golf Club. As a member for many years, he played a round or two.

On their night off, he and Pat could be found in one of Henley’s many restaurants, their favourite being Antico’s in Market Place.

After 11 years at the Baskerville, Pat and Harry moved to the Elephant and Castle in Old Amersham for “a quieter life” but they were out of luck.

In next to no time the pub was thriving and they were busier than ever with Pat working hard in the kitchen and Harry his jovial self behind the bar.

Two years later, they moved back to the Henley area, this time taking the Greyhound at Rotherfield Peppard.

As well as Harry’s humour (it was here that he was fondly referred to by many as “Happy Harry”), regulars will remember the pig roasts, sunny afternoons playing petanque, a large collection of walking sticks and the truly fabulous hanging baskets.

After more than a decade at the Greyhound, Pat and Harry finally retired to Emmer Green in 1999.

Thereafter Harry was able to give time to Reading Rotary Club and together he and Pat were able to enjoy spending time with the numerous customers who had become their friends over so many years.

Sadly, Pat suffered a stroke at Christmas in 2010 and, with help from Sarah, Harry spent the last four years lovingly caring for her.

As a respected publican for more than 40 years, Harry provided a playground for regulars and those just passing through.

He was mine host and confidante to many and gave so many people the opportunity to share special times and create memories.

Now, in his memory, we say a final “Time please, gentlemen”. May he rest in peace.

All who knew him are invited to Reading Crematorium on Monday (June 1) at 1.45pm and/or Early St Peter’s Church at 2.30pm for a celebration of Harry’s life.

Family flowers only. Donations to Marie Curie Cancer Care via or c/o Tomalin & Son, funeral directors, Henley.

Special thanks to all at Balmore Park Surgery in Caversham and to the Marie Curie nurses who cared for Harry in his final weeks.

If you have any special memories of Harry, Sarah would love to hear from you. Please get in touch via Facebook or via Tomalin & Son.

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