Peggy Hancock (1923-2021)


Woman with white hair, black blouse, white necklace, red finger nails, speaking animatedly with her pint of beer on a table in front.Peggy Hancock was a barmaid in a number of Bristol gay pubs after the Second World War and for many years was a leading light on the gay social scene in the city.

Peggy (real name Mary Hancock) was born on 28 April 1923 and died in Bath on 28 December 2021, aged 98. She was brought up before the war in Clifton, Bristol and first visited the city’s oldest known gay pub, the Radnor Hotel, in 1938 when she was aged 15. After the war, Peggy began working as a bar-maid at the Radnor about 1955, ruling the bar for nearly two decades. Her outgoing and friendly personality made her a favourite with the gay clientele and her sense of empathy helped many young gay men make their first forays into the gay world. The atmosphere in the Radnor at this time was very social and Peggy recalled the many private parties which were held, some in the pub itself after hours, with the local policeman coming in for a drink.

Peggy left her job as barmaid at the Radnor Hotel temporarily in about 1965 and worked in a number of other pubs, taking her gay following with her. Some landlords objected and three gave her instant dismissal. However, the landlord of the Ship Inn in Redcliffe Street, next to the old Shot Tower (both now demolished) was pleased to welcome her crowd of regulars and for a while the jazz and cocktail bar there was very successful. Later Peggy returned to the Radnor.

In the early 2000s she moved to a retirement home in Bath and soon became an active member of Gay West, regularly attending the Saturday morning coffee shop and other events.

Peggy had a zest for living as well as a waspish sense of humour. She loved gossip and was a font of anecdotes and stories but, above all, she had a great empathy and compassion for people. Everyone on the gay scene seemed to know Peggy or know of her. She had a large circle of friends spread across Britain and internationally and well into her eighties would go and stay with friends in Palm Springs, USA.

With her wonderful, infectious love of life, Peggy was guaranteed to light up any event she attended. She was truly one of the characters of gay Bristol.

Robert Howes, 2022

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