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December 3, 2008

Much loved pub re-opens under community ownership

The villagers of Birgham in Berwickshire have been waging a year long campaign to save their 200 year old pub from closure. Not only did they succeed in blocking a planning application to convert the building to residential use, the community mounted a successful bid to buy the pub outright. It re-opens for community business this Saturday


After a year long campaign to save their 200 year old village pub from closure the villagers of Birgham in Berwickshire are celebrating the news that they’ve bucked the national trend of pub closures and that the Fisherman’s Arms is re-opening. Reverting back to its original name, it will once again be a friendly traditional village pub serving good pub grub.

The opening ceremony at 6pm on Saturday December 6 will re-unite one of the villagers with her childhood home. Carol Fairbairn was brought up in The Fisherman’s Arms when her parents ran the pub back in the 1930’s and 1940’s. She is the third generation of her family to be associated with The Fisherman’s Arms since her grandparents started there in 1932. Carol will cut a ribbon and pour the first pint of Belhaven to officially signal the start of business. From that moment The Fisherman’s Arms is back!

The fight to save the pub began when the previous owners closed the doors in September 2007 and started to make internal changes to the premises, which villagers identified as the beginning of a change to a residential building. A ‘Save Our Birgham Pub Campaign’ was launched and with over 100 letters of objection very successfully stopped a planning application for change of use to a coffee/retail shop – a remarkable result for a small village of less than 100 homes.

Some residents in the village decided to take the situation one step further and on September 1 this year became proud owners of the village pub! From then on the hard work began to completely refurbish the pub to a high standard and also to set up a company and sell shares to the villagers. Approximately one third of the village, including Carol who will perform the opening, now have a share in the premises and after 3 months work they are eagerly awaiting the re-opening. Despite the present economic situation the strength of support for the pub reopening leaves everyone very confident for its future.

The new landlady of The Fisherman’s Arms is Pauline Bispham, with support in the kitchen from local chef Paul Taylor. Pauline has already re-located from Edinburgh with her husband and children and will be living on the premises. Pauline said: ” We are privileged to be joining The Fisherman’s Arms of Birgham, within such a welcoming, dynamic community. A community, which has fought hard to retain a place for friends to share life, enjoy good food and socialize together. It feels great to be immersing ourselves in a beautiful place amongst great people, where we aim to deliver a fantastic village pub”.