RETIRED Lewes licensee Vic Newman, the man “born to be a landlord”, died on Monday evening.
He was 69 and had been suffering ill-health for several years.
Together with his wife Veronica, Mr Newman ran The Black Horse in Western Road for more than a quarter of a century.
His time there has bee described locally as the “golden age” of the hostelry.
Lewes born and bred, Mr Newman was proud to be a Landport Boy. He attended Pells Primary School and then Lewes Secondary Modern, in Mountfield Road.
After leaving school he became an apprentice at Caffyns Garage – where he showed a remarkable memory and head for figures – and later continued in the motor trade as a salesman.
He began courting Veronica when she was 16 and the couple married at St Peter’s Church, Preston Park, in 1963.
They lived at various addresses locally and Mr Newman revealed that it had always been his dream to run a pub.
The couple looked for various premises across the country and could not believe their luck when they secured the tenancy of The Black Horse in his home town in 1977 – then owned by the local Beards Brewery.
It was a baptism of fire. The pub had a rather rough reputation and was frequented by local stable lads from the racing establishments, of which there were still five in Lewes at the time.
Rivalry sometimes sparked punch-ups, and Mr Newman would have to intervene. On one particularly eventful evening he had to change his shirt three times as each became spattered with blood.
But within 12 months he had transformed the pub simply through the sheer force of his personality. He had the happy knack of getting on with people of all ages and from all walks of life.
That famous memory meant that he would remember the name of a customer he had met just once a year earlier – and what they liked to drink.
The Black Horse established a lively and loyal clientelle. Reference books were introduced for the benefit of crossword fans – Mr Newman was an avid one – and funny, wise or outlandish comments were encouraged on blackboards in the lavatories.
It was hard graft. The pub also served as a B and B, which meant the working day began at 6am.
Veronica recalled their many happy years together, which ended just a year short of their Golden Wedding anniversary. “He was just a lovely man, and lovely with people,” she said. “I think he was born to be a landlord.”
In 2003 Mr Newman was forced to retire on health grounds, suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, a progressive illness of the lungs.
The couple moved to Lewes Road, Ringmer, where he died peacefully this week with Veronica at his side. She said: “He was always optimistic and cheerful. He never complained about his illness.”
She added: “Since he moved to Ringmer he has really enjoyed the garden here and in the early years he was able to do some gardening even though slowly and with lots of rest in between.
“He also loved birds and kept a list of all those that he saw in the garden. He also used to sit out in the garden late at night to watch the bats. When he was at the pub he loved to walk bits of the South Downs Way on his day off.
“When we were at the pub he always had a brilliant flower display which won him several prizes including a trip to Copenhagen. He devised a very long copper tube with the rose at the end and people would see him out there every morning on the pavement watering the flowers above the windows and the flower baskets.”
Mr Newman was a devoted Bonfire Boy and up until his death was President of Commercial Square Bonfire Society, a post he had held for many years.
He leaves three children and two grandchildren.
For funeral arrangements, please contact Cooper and Son on 01273 475557.