Q&A: Jacqueline McCraig, The Old Swan, Paisley
Q&A: Jacqueline McCraig, The Old Swan, Paisley
Following on from The Old Swan’s nomination for the Best Pub at the Scottish Entertainment and Hospitality Awards, we sat down with tenant Jacqueline McCraig to discuss all things Paisley, Pub and Paolo Nutini related… Read on to find out more!
Firstly, a huge Congratulations on your nomination for the Best Pub at the Scottish Entertainment and Hospitality Awards, how does it feel?
Ecstatic! We’re all very excited about it. There’s a really good feeling around the pub, it’s a great thing to be involved and associated with, and we’re looking forward to the awards dinner.
Has the Pub or yourself been nominated for things before?
Yes we have, we’ve been involved in social campaigns like Ask for Angela and social incentives too, and we’ve been recognised by Best Bar None previously. We won Gold award 3 years on the bounce for Best Independent Pub but it’s lovely to be nominated for Best Pub at the Scottish Entertainment and Hospitality awards.
The awards dinner is on the 29th March, which is a Sunday night, has there been a bit of competition between staff as to who gets to go?
Not really, I think every one of the staff is very proud of the achievement, and they know that it’s a real team effort to make the pub what it is. We actually all went out for a team night out in November which was great. Nights like that can be expensive, but they are great for building morale and team ethic. Our staff are great and really appreciated so there’s a couple of senior staff members going to the dinner. We can’t all go because we need to keep the pub open and then that would cost a lot of money.
You’re one of the longest serving Trust Inns tenants, in fact you’re about to celebrate your 20th Anniversary, what’s the secret to keep people coming back to the pub?
Hard work. Attention to detail is a must and keeping it interesting. I think the little things make the big differences, they all contribute. We have fresh flowers and candles, we keep the toilets clean, there’s sanitary products available in the Ladies, and we make sure the beer garden is clean and tidy. The whole pub needs to be kept to a decent standard of cleanliness and the rest follows. High standards, and then the people know it’s a proper community pub. We recently did the beer garden up and host the ‘T in the Swan’ festival, named as a nod to the old ‘T in The Park’ festival. We also host The Danny Kyle stage, which is an open stage for musicians to come and sing in a week-long event. We have hosted this event two years running and is popular with locals.
Our anniversary was actually in January, but we’ve pushed it back to March. January and February trading was very good after a difficult December, but it’s great to have a Party to celebrate with the staff and our customers.
You must have some fond memories, any particularly memorable nights or occasions that stand out?
Ohhh… That’s a hard one. So difficult to answer. There’s so many. It’s been great. I suppose when it first started kicking off. When we knew that we were turning the corner and things started to change. Originally this pub was one of the roughest pubs in Paisley and had a real reputation in the town. We worked really hard to turn it around, and sometimes it was very difficult, but you get there and bit by bit it starts to change. Your customers know you, they support you, they love the pub, the whole thing, community. That’s what has been really memorable, although we’ve built on that with everything else.
What’s it like working and living in Paisley?
Paisley is Scotland’s largest town and I think it has a reputation for being a bit rough, which is a bit unfair. It’s not really like that. There’s a really strong community and Pub Watch scheme in Paisley. All the businesses look out for each other and know that we are stronger together, and better for looking out for one another and supporting each other when we need it. We were actively involved in helping Paisley get awarded the Purple Flag scheme.
How would you describe your pub and the locals?
We’re lucky to have a following of regulars, and we have newcomers coming from everywhere for the live music. People come from across Glasgow, Renfrewshire and the Ayrshire coast, it’s great to meet people. My Mum ran the pub before me, and then 10 years ago I took it on. It’s a proper community, local pub and the bar staff know to look out for anyone who looks suspect or trouble, although luckily that’s rarer now than the old days. We all look after each other, and my mum still helps out. In fact, (laughs) because we don’t have a kitchen in the pub, my Mum makes sandwiches and snacks for the Pensioner’s Tea Dance we host on a Tuesday afternoon!
That is brilliant! Does she mind doing it? Does she tell you what to do?
(Laughing) No she loves it! It’s great having her round and part of the pub still. She knows lots of people and it’s all good fun. She’s got a really good eye and knows the importance of the little details, so it’s wonderful having her helping out and being involved.
Live music is a major part of your offering, was that a conscious decision or did it naturally happen?
Definitely a conscious decision. When I took on the pub from my Mum, Karaoke was massive and in a lot of pubs around here, and had a bit of a reputation, but we knew we wanted to offer something a little different. Live music was an obvious change and direction to go in, I knew that if we were to change things we needed to go out of the box as it were, and that meant Live Music. We have cover bands, mainly rock and have had Tribute Bands including Madness and UB40 who go down well. We have music on a Saturday Afternoon, and every last Saturday of the month we have a band or act on, it’s super popular and we’re booked up for 2020. We’re lucky but we’ve worked really hard to build up our reputation.
Scotland has produced some huge musical talents over the years. Do you think the Scottish music scene is vibrant?
Yes, I think live music in Scotland appeared to peak a few years ago, but it’s still there and growing from strength to strength. There’s a lot of young talent. There’s no shortage of young bands and singers coming through, and that means it’s always new and fresh. We’ve also had kids who were 15/16 and starting out and who have gone on to form bands or swap bands and are still playing together or as solo acts, and they are now in their 20s and 30s and still come back. It’s great giving people a platform.
I think I know what you’re going to say to this Jacqueline but I’m going to ask it any, would you recommend live music events to other pubs?
Oh Yes, definitely. It’s still growing in popularity. We’ve had lots of success with it and it’s still going from strength to strength so yes, I think pubs should put on live music and entertainment. In our experience it’s been very worthwhile.
That’s great, has anyone famous ever played or visited The Old Swan?
Hmmm, yes one or two over the years, but the one that sticks out is Paolo Nutini. His grandad used to drink in here and was a regular, so Paolo was often around, and he’s originally from Paisley too.
Now we do ask every pub this question, and The Old Swan is no exception. People love a pub Ghost, have you got a story or anything spooky associated with your pub?
Hundreds! (Laughing) Oh my goodness, yes. There’s so many associated with the Pub and around Paisley, but in relation to the Pub there’s all sorts, it’s an old building. There’s a man downstairs who isn’t very nice and the staff have complained about at times. The lights go out, we’ve had it all, things going missing and stuff like that, noises and things moving. Apparently, there was a murder committed here but that’s many years ago now. My Mum knows more about the history of the pub so you’ll have to ask her!
We’d love to discuss ghost stories with your Mum at some point but in the meantime thank you very much for talking to us Jacqueline, and best of luck at the awards dinner.
Have a story to tell about your pub? Contact us today and let us know. if you would like to see more posts from Trust Inns please refer to our blog page, or keep up to date by following our social media accounts. You can also see more about The Old Swan on their facebook page.