The Anonymous Widower

Tommy Ducks, Manchester

Having been to Manchester a couple of times lately and especially a few of my memories of the city start to return.  Years ago, I worked with a salesman called Brian Birtwistle and I think it was him, who took me to a pub called Tommy Ducks.  I seemed to remember that it some bizarre decor and that ladies were invited to donate their knickers and these were then promptly nailed to the ceiling by the landlord. 

Initial searches with Google didn’t seem to find anything, but after changing the terms a bit I found this on Sigma Leisure Books.

It is 100 Barbirolli Square (not 101). It should be recorded that this building stands on the site of ‘Tommy Duck’s’, one of the great pubs of Manchester. It was located in a late eighteenth century house, and got its name in a most singular way. A signwriter was inscribing the name of the landlord, one Thomas Duckworth, on the fascia boarding – but ran out of space. Thus ‘Duckworth’s’ became ‘Duck’s’! In its final incarnation, the interior was unique, owing nothing whatsoever to a ‘designer’ but deriving from the interests and eccentricities of the landlord and his cronies. There was a priceless collection of Victorian theatre and music hall posters, a skeleton within a glass lidded coffin, and the ‘piece de resistance’, a ceiling covered with a fine collection of ladies knickers. These ranged from the skimpiest pieces of lace to capacious ‘bloomers’. (Female regulars were asked to donate a pair, which was duly autographed, dated, and pinned up with due ceremony.) A raid by a group of women who were determined to reclaim them soon passed into the city’s folklore. Sadly, the pub was demolished in a rather dubious episode. It is said that the perpetrators were fined for knocking down a listed structure without consent. ‘Hanging, drawing, and quartering’ would have been more appropriate.

There is also a picture on Flickr.

My memory says that whilst we were drinking in the pub, a lady was asked to donate and the due ceremony took place.  It’s probably been upgraded with the passage of time!

They don’t make pubs like that anymore.

July 8, 2009 - Posted by | Transport | , ,

17 Comments »

  1. Tommy ducks was raided by a load of weirdo feminists and lesbos who tore down the artefacts, aided by a bunch of burly males. the place, a grade 1 listed building, was reduced to rubble later and the developers fined Over £100k. A bunch of low rise offices now stand on the spot

    Comment by keir faulkner | December 5, 2009 | Reply

  2. Sad! We need more crazy pubs. There was one in Hunsdon called the Turkey Cock, but everybody knew it as The Crazy Pub. You used to sit in old airline seats and the owner was ex-RAF.

    There’s is a picture here.

    http://www.francisfrith.com/hunsdon,hertfordshire/photos/the-turkey-cock-c1965_H475001/

    Comment by AnonW | December 5, 2009 | Reply

  3. You have done it once more. Great post!

    Comment by Lea Major | May 28, 2010 | Reply

  4. Haha I’m honestly the only comment to this awesome read!

    Comment by Alfred Dooley | June 1, 2010 | Reply

  5. Tommy Ducks – the pub used to have a tame fox living in the alleyway at the side of the pub. There was a metal grill at the entrance to stop its escape.

    Comment by Alan Leeke (former Mancunian) | August 30, 2011 | Reply

  6. […] Also if the Hacienda was so great, why doesn’t anybody remember Tommy Ducks? […]

    Pingback by The BBC’s Obsession With Manchester Music of the 1970s « The Anonymous Widower | April 24, 2012 | Reply

  7. I visited Tommy Ducks as a 17-year-old in the summer of 1976 while visiting from the States. I have often wondered if it was still around. I’m sad to discover that it is not. But I do possess an authentic Tommy Ducks pint mug. Thanks for the memories.

    Comment by Maria Butler | August 5, 2012 | Reply

    • As a 10-12 year old or so, I used to bunk the train sheds in East London to collect engine numbers. The sheds at Stratford, are now the Olympic site. Perhaps the ghost of all those thousands of steam engines are powering the British home.

      Comment by AnonW | August 5, 2012 | Reply

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  9. My mother as a child in 1930’s was taken to Tommy Ducks by her brother Leo who was licensee of the pub along with his wife Lucy ( nee Garside). She says the theatricals used to drink there after their performances. She remembers the panties on the roof. Leo worked there until his death. His cousin ran a pub the Gardeners Arms.

    Comment by Publicans neice | February 27, 2013 | Reply

    • All good stuff! Thanks

      Comment by AnonW | February 27, 2013 | Reply

      • Just done more checking. Leo was licensee of the Cotton Tree at Droylsden at his death, so must have been at Tommy Ducks prior. I do have a photo of
        Leo and Lucy behind the bar at Tommy Ducks.

        Comment by Publicans neice | February 28, 2013

  10. A favourite place of mine 1980/2, I still have my Tommy Ducks mirror hanging up on my landing in our house near Llanberis. I remember the coffin being carried around Manchester as a mock funeral. I can`t believe those idiots pulled all the knickers from the ceiling I`m glad I was not there when it happened. The rule was that they had to be still warm when they were pinned up on the ceiling. Happy days.

    Comment by Carol Kay-Williams | July 25, 2013 | Reply

    • I’ve had a couple of messages saying this is all false memory syndrome, but we know better!

      Comment by AnonW | July 25, 2013 | Reply

    • Hi Carol.

      I’m working on a short student documentary about Tommy Ducks and find the personal testimony of people who experienced it really valuable. Would you be interested in a sharing your thoughts on the pub or any anecdotes over the phone, zoom, or in person (outside). If you’d prefer, you could create a short voice
      recording to send in which you introduce yourself (name / relationship with the place) and talk a little bit about it. Anything would be so so helpful. Please get back to me with any questions.

      Comment by Lenny O'Sullivan | November 3, 2020 | Reply

  11. I was a student in Manchester from 1973 – 1977. Sadly, I only ever visited Tommy Duck’s twice during that time. Being naïve on the first of those occasions – a lunchtime – I was confused at being asked to move into the “other room at closing time”. It was a lockin. Something entirely new in my experience! Didn’t attend any lectures that afternoon. I still have a half-pint glass from there with the famous flying ducks logo on it.

    Comment by Martin Farrimond | December 14, 2020 | Reply


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