A big-hearted landlord has been honoured by the Queen for his charitable work on the same day his pub faces closure by the council.
For more than a decade Joe Gildea has worked tirelessly to raise over £107,000 in memory of his daughter Angela, who died from breast cancer when she was just 32 years old.
Now the pub landlord is ‘chuffed’ after being awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list, on the same day he pulled his final pint at The Ship Victory in Chester.
“It is a very emotional time, but this has softened the blow of leaving,” said Joe, 74, who had wanted to hand over the pub to friends when he retired later this year to coincide with his 20th anniversary but has been told that leaseholders CWaC want the pub for ‘development’.
“I was crying so, so hard when I found out. I am chuffed. It is not for me, I am accepting it on behalf of all the people who have done so much. Anyone who has ever bought a raffle ticket has contributed to this honour.”
Since 2002 Joe and regulars at the pub, nicknamed ‘the little pub with a big heart’ have been raising funds for the Countess of Chester Breast Care Unit, with regulars jumping out of planes, climbing mountains and even racing around the Roodee dressed as turkeys in the annual Turkey Trot.
“It’s for people like Ralph [Jones] who climbed Snowdon on his 79th birthday, jumped out of a plane and went wing walking to raise money,” said Joe, who set up the Angela Gildea Memorial Fund when his daughter sadly lost her battle to cancer back in 2002.
“It is not for me it is for everybody.”
Speaking about when he discovered the letter hidden amongst his post after returning from a funeral around a month ago, Joe, father to Simon and Paul, said: “I couldn’t stop crying, I’m welling up now.
“It has been hard not to tell anyone. Two different people nominated me, one goes back three years.”
Charitable Joe has also raised thousands of pounds for Chronicle -backed Miles of Smiles, sending children on their dream holidays to Disneyland Paris.
Joe had wanted to retire in June 2014 to coincide with the 20th anniversary of running the pub, but retired on New Year’s Eve surrounded by his wife Helen, family and friends who toasted his success with 200 fireworks and a giant party.
Wife Helen, 52, who runs the Grade II listed pub with her husband, said she ‘couldn’t be more proud of him’ and was glad he could finally share the news with everyone now the list had been officially announced.
“I feel made up, I’m so proud of him, he has done all this after his daughter dying, he is one in a million,” said Helen, who will be attending the Royal garden party later this year for Joe to get his honour.
“I told him Angela will be looking down on you and she will be so proud.
“He is the most kind and amazing man you could ever meet, he always puts others before himself, even strangers.”
But it won’t be the first time Joe has met Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II, after meeting her in Tanzania back in 1979.
Reacting to the news, head of fundraising for the Countess of Chester Hospital Janet Ratcliffe, said: “We are indebted to Joe and Helen for all they have done for our charity over the past 11 years.
“To have raised this amount of money from such a small pub is incredible, and we are grateful to all the Ship Victory regulars and many others who have supported Joe over the years.
“A huge number of current, past and future patients using the facilities in our breast care unit will have benefited from the wide range of items and equipment that have been provided from the regular donations we have received every year.”
Real ale lovers and regulars are preparing to launch a campaign to save the Ship Victory, but the council say they have yet to make a decision about the future of the pub.