Issue 24 August 2002





Paper picks on local pub
by Richard Belbin

The News of the World wanted to run a story about how crack cocaine had spread from the inner-city ghettos to the middle-class suburbs … so they came to Pitsmoor. And that wasn’t the only thing odd about the story.

‘ … in the middle-class Pittsmore area of Sheffield …The Rock House is a popular refuge for students of the local university.’

The paper went on to claim that they had been in the pub and bought crack “under the noses of the unsuspecting landlord and drinkers” – a claim the Landlord, Donnie McFarlane vehemently denies:

“There’s no way that goes on in here. It’d stand out like a sore thumb.”

Donnie McFarlane with his wife Carol took over The Rock House, on Rock Street, eight years ago. Since then they have strived to turn it into a ‘community pub’, with ‘a corner for everyone’. From the beginning Donnie and Carol made it clear that drug dealing and drug use were not welcome there. Before they took it over The Rock was well known as a place where people would come to score, since it has ‘not had an ounce of bad publicity’, has been a regular in CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide, and was their ‘Pub of the Month’ last August.

Donnie and Carol were practising their French when I went to see them, they are hoping to sell the Rock next year and move to France. Now though, they fear their plans are at risk.

“It’s an insult, not only to us, but to all our customers, and everyone who lives in Burngreave. We know just about all our customers by name, and them saying they bought the drugs in the pub makes it sound like it must be one of our customers.”

So why would the News of the World make up such a story? Well, the pub’s called The Rock isn’t it, buying rocks in the Rock, that would seem quite clever to them, wouldn’t it?

Donnie and Carol have received a lot of support from their regulars and neighbours. Seaton Gosling, who likes to call in, said the article was ‘disgraceful, a complete set-up’, whilst another local – who does not even visit the pub – thanked Donnie for having ‘made their lives bearable’ over the years.

The News of the World claims it has video evidence of the deal taking place, but has refused to show it to Donnie and Carol. Nor have they answered letters and questions put to them by both the couple and the Messenger. Donnie and Carol hope to have more luck with the Press Complaints Council.

Donnie McFarlane with his wife Carol.