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Una Hawkins, Buck’s Head landlady who fed the homeless on Christmas Day

Arsenal-supporting publican was 'life and soul'

15 June, 2019 — By Tom Foot

EVERY Christmas Day, Una Hawkins would send her family out into Camden Town to invite as many homeless people as they could find to the Buck’s Head for a slap-up lunch on the house.

The publican, who has died aged 82, ran the Camden High Street bar with husband John, 92, between 1971 and 1989.

The couple moved to Montpellier Grove, in Kentish Town, after leaving the pub, going on to run St Aloysius Social Club, in Phoenix Road, Somers Town, for 25 years.

Ms Hawkins, who did not have children, lived above the pub with John, her sister Maura and Maura’s son, Nicky.

He said: “Every year as a family we’d have Christmas dinner in the bar. It was a big thing. We’d set up the tables with all the gloss. But back then the pub only opened till I think 3pm on Christmas Day. So we would have our dinner and then I’d go out with my cousin to find the homeless – in Inverness Street and by Camden Town station – and we’d invite them in for a dinner and drinks, all on the house. Not the scraps, it was a proper meal. It was done every year. That makes me feel proud.”

Una was born in County Galway, Ireland, into a family of nine. She came to London and waitressed in Irish pubs before working behind the bar.

Nicky, who went to Richard of Chichester School and has played pool for England, said: “The perception was that she was very good behind the bar. You never see it in pubs nowadays, but back in the day a woman behind the bar could serve three or four at once.”

Una met John in the Buck’s Head when he was working as a manager, before the couple married and took over the lease.

She liked a vodka and orange, or tonic, and would “drop a Prosecco” while picking out horse-race winners on Saturdays, after scanning the form in the Daily Mirror, and then cheering on Arsenal. As part of a family of Gooners, Nicky said it was “quality” living in the pub as a boy.

He used to help out behind the bar when they took over the social club.

He added: “Una was genuinely a real nice person. She’d give you her last pound note. She was the life and soul, you know.”

Ms Hawkins, who died on May 17, is survived by husband John and three brothers, Albert, Austin and Tommy.

Her funeral is at St Aloysius Church, in Phoenix Road, Somers Town, at 11am on Monday.

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