Wetherby Whaler opening receives warm welcome in media


Caroline Walker writes...........

Being a PR professional is always hard work, often stressful with deadlines to meet and clients to service but it is also great fun and incredibly satisfying, particularly when it involves fish and chips, celebrities and a Yorkshire icon.

The opening of the new Wetherby Whaler fish and chip restaurant and take-away in Guiseley near Leeds was such a project.

Simple enough you might think, but this restaurant is no ordinary restaurant. It is the spiritual home of fish and chips, the iconic original Harry Ramsden’s. Back in its hey-day it was the largest fish and chip shop in the world and boasted stained glass windows, art-deco plasterwork and shimmering chandeliers.

The restaurant, now in corporate hands and unloved and underused, dwindled and in late 2011 it closed its famous doors.

All was not lost however and Yorkshire fish and chip entrepreneurs Phillip and Janine Murphy, owners of four Wetherby Whalers, stepped in.

Several months of intensive work followed and the 5th Wetherby Whaler was created. True to the ideals of Harry Ramsden the £500,000 refurbishment was designed to bring the restaurant up to date, while maintaining the atmosphere the restaurant was renowned for. A baby grand piano, much of the original plasterwork and stained glass were saved and updated and ten band new chandeliers were installed.

A grand opening was needed for this landmark restaurant and Recognition worked closely with the Murphy family to ensure that it was a glittering affair.

Guests of honour at the official opening included Harry Ramsden’s daughter Shirley Dillon and granddaughter Jayne Dinan who travelled from Ireland for the occasion. 

Also in attendance were local dignitaries, including Stuart Andrew MP, Sir Ken Morrison and members of the 1970’s Leeds United team. Twin sisters, then called Mavis and Wendy Raistrick, who featured in the press and in a book about the famous restaurant when they attended a celebration there in 1952, could not be left out. The sisters walked from their home in Horsforth to be first in line when the restaurant marked its 21st anniversary by selling fish and chips at the original price. 

Yorkshire legend Dickie Bird OBE, a regular visitor to the Wetherby Whaler in Wakefield, also enjoyed the occasion.

Media from across Yorkshire came along to enjoy fish and chips and report on the event. Cameras flashed and TV cameras whirred as a blue plaque was unveiled by an emotional Shirley Dillon, who was certain her father would have thoroughly approved of the new restaurant.

Lots of media coverage, a happy client, and a fish and chip lunch into the bargain! A good day’s work!

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