A LICENSED victuallers’ association has celebrated 50 years fostering mutual support between members.

The 50th celebratory banquet and ball of the North Riding Dales Licensed Victuallers’ Association was held at the Ripon Spa Hotel.

The association first met on June 10, 1963, at the Bolton Arms in Leyburn with annual subscriptions at two guineas (£2.10). On December 2, 1963, the Catterick Bridge Hotel hosted the first four-course meal, which cost 30 shillings (£1.50) per ticket.

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During its early years, social events mainly consisted of trips to breweries or distilleries.

However, in 1986 members organised a charity walk from Leyburn to Hawes. The year after it became a bike ride, which has been held ever since and has raised about £262,0000.

Ralph Daykin, president of the local LVA, has attended nearly every meeting in the last 50 years and all the banquets and bike rides.

In 1956, along with his wife Pat, he took on the licence of the Victoria Arms at Worton. At 88, he is probably one of the oldest licensees in the Dales or indeed the country.

A Dalesman through and through, Mr Daykin was a farmer before he was a pub landlord and he still has land and sheep to tend to. He enjoys shooting, fishing, country shows and still plays for the Victoria Arms domino team.

Relatively unchanged over the years, the pub has seen many notable visitors – Harry Ramsden, vets Alf Wight and Donald Vaughan Sinclair, and most of the cast of the TV series All Creatures Great and Small, including Christopher Timothy and Robert Hardy.

Sitting in the same chair by the fire he has relaxed in for more than 50 years, he said: “I think it is a tougher job now than it was back then. Life isn’t like it was, you can’t smoke, and there should be a room or bar for those that want to smoke.

“Round here there used to be 50 or so farmers and 40 farm workers – now there are five farmers and no workers. As far as I am concerned, there are no locals – they’re gone.”

He gave some thought to retiring 20 years ago but has not got round to it yet. Speaking to him you get the impression that it will never happen, he will keep just on working.

Mrs Douglas ran the George and Dragon in Aysgarth and the Fountain at Hawes with husband Bill for many years. Following his death, the LVA members asked her to become secretary until ill-health forced her to relinquish most of her duties in 2007. Speaking of Mr Daykin, she said: “He is a unique character, everyone knows him. I am privileged to have known him for over 50 years. He is a fantastic man – there will never be another. He was 88 last October. He has been a lucky man with a very hard-working wife who is kindness itself. “ The 50th banquet and ball took place at the Ripon Spa Hotel and was attended by members and their guests.

Simon Theakston chaired the evening. Paying tribute to the association’s celebrations, he said: “As the oldest brewer in the Dales, we were very honoured to be asked to chair the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Dales LVA.

“They have provided mutual support and splendid fundraising which has gone on quietly without a fuss supporting many organisations in the district.”

  • A Social & Personal picture special will appear in the D&S Times on December 28.