Digbeth People: John Tighe

John Tighe

I recently had the pleasure of speaking to the landlord of the Spotted Dog pub, John Tighe.

John, who has been landlord of the pub since 1985, originally worked as a biochemist at the City Hospital for 32 years until 2001, when his commitments to being a landlord took over. John initially bought the pub as a hobby, which stemmed from his days running his grammar school’s old boys’ sports ground. In his own words:

“The pub started off as the hobby, and biochemistry was the job…but towards the end, the biochemistry was the hobby…and the pub was becoming the job!”

One of the main things about the Spotted Dog that appealed to John was the fact that it was not owned by one of the two major breweries (Ansell’s in this case) and was the second pub in Birmingham to be privately owned. He bought the pub for £39,000 whilst it was in a “horribly run down” condition. After restoring the building to create a homely, traditional Irish pub that reflects John’s Irish heritage, he set about kick-starting some rather unorthodox events.

Pope John

The most notable of these is the annual Digbeth O’Lympics games, which includes anarchic activities such as the downhill soapbox race, ‘Pope on a Rope’ tug of war, the cardboard coracle race and the custard-filled welly dash. Proceeds from the games go to Acorns Charity.

The Digbeth O’Lympics started off three years ago as a “two-fingered gesture” from John to Birmingham City Council following the rather infamous dispute over a Noise Abatement Order taken out against John and the pub after complaints from just three residents of the newly-built Abacus flats next door in 2007. Facing a cost of £50,000 to appeal, John had to back down despite feeling he had quite a strong case. His vocal stance against the Noise Abatement Order earned him the title of Brummie of The Year from Birmingham, it’s Not Shit in December 2007. Since then nearby venues The Rainbow and the Custard Factory have experienced similar problems, which has driven forward the campaign to Keep Digbeth Vibrant!

Some (slightly) less eccentric events hosted by the Spotted Dog are Nicky Getgood’s ‘Irish Filum Night’ every other Monday evening, with live Traditional Irish Music on the alternate Mondays, Jazz Tuesdays and ‘Politically Incorrect and Bad Taste’ Late Night Movies each Friday.

Spotted Dog beer garden

However, despite being landlord of a lively and popular pub with a very full calendar, John feels the future for the Spotted Dog is uncertain:

“I can see some of Digbeth’s favourite pubs not being here in 5 years time…perhaps including this one.”

If you haven’t already, be sure to experience the Spotted Dog whilst you’re still able to, and enjoy its unique aura and quite incredible beer garden, which is pictured above.


About navgahir

A second year Online Journalism student at Birmingham City University looking to get a bit of experience. Nav will be delving deep under the skin of Digbeth, featuring key local people who have helped to make this area great.
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