Independent on Sunday's Happy List 2014 (NOT the Rich List): Dolly Saville, legendary barmaid


Click to follow
The Independent Online

When she started working at the Red Lion Hotel King George VI was on the throne, Winston Churchill was Prime Minister and Britain was at war with Nazi Germany. Some 74 years later, and despite having celebrated her 100th birthday, Dolly Saville is still pulling pints behind the same bar.

It is an achievement that reportedly makes her the world's oldest barmaid. She still works three shifts a week, having cut back at the venue in Wendover in Buckinghamshire from her normal six-hours a day, six-days a week work rota only when she turned 94

"I never thought I would be here this long but I've loved every minute of it," she said on her 100th birthday. "My family keeps asking if I want to stop but I have no plans to retire. My boss is lovely and if he asked me to work an extra shift I would say yes as he's been so kind to me."

When she was first approached by the manager of the hotel about the prospect of bar work she refused. Her husband had recently joined up in the RAF and Dolly was looking after their two children. However he persisted and she decided it would be worth a try.

"I said I thought I would give people the wrong change but I started to serve and I quite enjoyed it," she recalled. "I meet lovely people who come in here, and have a laugh with them."


She has served many famous faces during her time, including legendary footballer Sir Stanley Matthews, James Bond star Pierce Brosnan, actress Elizabeth Taylor, singer Vera Lynn and former Prime Minister Ted Heath.

Dolly has only ever taken two weeks' sick leave during her working life, and has been repaid for her loyalty by having the bar at the hotel named after her.

When she turned 100 in April, her birthday was celebrated by friends, family and colleagues at the Red Lion, with Dolly also receiving a letter from David Cameron.

The Red Lion's manager Martin Howard said the town should be "proud" of her. "You get people who have been coming in here for 50 to 60 years who basically come in to say hello to her," he said.

The full list of people who make life better for others
Tom Dowling, community journalist
Nikandre Kopcke, social entrepreneur
Carmel Allen and Josephine Drew, charity founders
Robert Williams, kindness giver
Martin Griffiths, surgeon/lecturer
Jean Bishop, buzzing fundraiser
Aneeta Prem, anti-slavery campaigner
Finally ... 10 household names who went the extra mile