Tributes paid to ‘Derngate Jim’, Northampton pub landlord for 16 years

Former Mailcoach pub landlord Jim Noble
Former Mailcoach pub landlord Jim Noble

A popular Northampton landlord known for his infectious personality and people skills has died.

Jim Noble, 80, also known as Derngate Jim, passed away on May 4 surrounded by his family following a short battle with liver and bowel cancer.

Jim and his wife Kath

Jim and his wife Kath

His son Andy, who helped run the Mailcoach pub in Derngate alongside Jim, paid tribute to his “people person” father.

He said: “My dad just had a way with people, I think he was one of life’s nice guys who saw the good in most people and tried to help them out if he could.

“He’d also put them in his place if they needed it, he wouldn’t be walked over. He was definitely a bit old school.

“That was his game, he knew how to run pubs and be a people person.”

Born in Coventry on February 26, 1937, Jim was one of eight children. He began work as a car tester but soon found himself involved in the pub trade, going on to run several in his home town.

Jim moved to Northampton in 1985 with his wife Kath after being offered the chance to manage the Mailcoach in Derngate by the previous landlord, who was a friend of his from Coventry.

Sadly, in 1989, Kath died very suddenly at the age of 53 but Jim stayed in the Mailcoach, and with the support of his family and network of friends, the pub went from strength to strength.

“This was down to Jim’s infectious personality,” said son Andy. “He had an ability to listen to people and make them feel like they belonged.

“He just had that personal touch which endeared him to everyone. Not many people have that quality.”

The Mailcoach became increasingly popular in the late 1980s, explained Andy, thanks in part to the expanding client base which included the solicitors, estate agents, and theatre and office workers in the Derngate area.

But again it was Jim’s personality that meant the punters kept returning to the Mailcoach.

“I think he was an old school landlord, when you walked in he knew your name which was important to people. He built a rapport with people,”said Andy.

“He helped a lot of people out financially and emotionally many times, when they needed it.

“Sometimes when people came in and they were down on their luck or something he would help them out with a few quid and say ‘Listen, have this and pay a few bills and gimme it back when you can.’ Or if they were having trouble at home with their wife or at work and they needed to bend somebody’s ear he seemed to be the person for that.”

With the pub located a short walk away from the Royal & Derngate, the Mailcoach would often be frequented by stars of the stage and the theatre’s crew.

The likes of Zoë Ball, Russ Abbot, Barbara Windsor, Jim Davidson, Letitia Dean, and Mike Harding were all guests in the pub at some point, but what made the place special was the convivial atmosphere Jim created despite the establishment’s proximity to the town centre.

“The Mailcoach was a town centre pub but it became a local for many people,” said Andy. “You would go in there at certain times and everybody knew everybody. It had a nice feel, there was very little trouble in there.

“The backstage crew from the Royal & Derngate were in all the time, they were part and parcel of the family.”

After 16 years running the Mailcoach, and a long career behind the bar, Jim retired in 2001.

Andy believes his father had earned his retirement, and he remained active so was able to spend time with his eight grandchildren.

Occasionally he would go on holiday with his daughter, or with his eldest grandson, Christopher.

“He was brilliant with the family,” said Andy. “Unfortunately when he became ill it sort of curtailed him, but he had an awful lot of time for his grandchildren.

“He’d go and pick them up, go and see them, always wanted to spend time with them and talk to them. They all loved him, they all thought he was great fun.”

Having overcome mouth cancer in 2004 - and a stroke in 2006 prior to that - Jim would lose his second fight against the disease after being diagnosed with bowel and liver cancer in early 2017.

Andy said the family coped with the passing of his father well. He said: “We sort of knew it was coming. He was at the grand old age of 80 and luckily enough we held a birthday party for him in February just before he became really ill, which was lovely.

“We all have nice memories of a lovely dad and a lovely person.”

Away from the bar, Jim’s great passion in life was his beloved Coventry City Football Club. He also loved horse racing and would often go to his favourite meeting, the Goodwood Festival, with his friends.

Jim Noble is survived by his daughters Jackie and Lisa, his son Andy, and grandchildren Christopher, Sean, Cece and Archie.