TRIBUTES are being paid to a much-loved York pub landlord, who became one of the longest serving in the city before he retired from the trade.

Dave Smith, who once held sway at the Royal Oak in Goodramgate, has died at the age of 71 following a long illness.

Known as “a big man with a big heart” who would always help a friend, he leaves a widow, Sally, and a daughter, Lucy.

He was born and brought up in Scarborough and his first working role was as a wood machinist and timber technician at Plaxtons in the resort where he remained for ten years.

Dave and Sally were married in October 1973 and then travelled to London to attend a training course for the hotel industry.

The couple then made their debut in the pub trade when they were asked to do a six-week holiday relief stint at Ye Olde Starre Inn on Stonegate in York. Their potential was quickly recognised and they were offered jobs as permanent live-in managers - and they stayed at the pub for three years.

However in 1977 they moved on, taking over as tenants of the Royal Oak where they made their mark by turning a small quiet pub into what became a thriving food and drink business.

Their efforts at the Oak were rewarded with numerous Camra Pub of the Season awards as well as a special award when they clocked up 25 years as a Camra-recognised pub. They also took a Pub of the Year honour in the York Tourism Awards.

Dave finally retired from the Oak in 2004 after clocking up 27 years at the pub - a record that is regarded as one of the longest ever achieved in the city.

He then eased himself into full retirement by taking on the night porter role at The Lodge in Malton, working the shift for three years.

With his working years behind him Dave then sold his home in Terrington and began experiencing the delights of Europe, with he and Sally enjoying the nomadic life with many long road trips, mainly in France and Spain, in their motor home.

However as his health began to worsen the couple had to give up that lifestyle and moved to Milton Keynes to be close to daughter Lucy.

His funeral will be held next Thursday, March 21, at York Crematorium at 3pm.