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Long-serving pub landlord John Baker who runs The Ship Inn in Ospringe, Faversham, retires

One of Kent's longest serving pub landlords has finally called time after a 44-year career manning the pumps.

John Baker, affectionately known as 'The Captain', has run The Ship Inn at Ospringe since 1986 and was previously licensee of the Ship Hotel in Faversham for eight years.

John Baker and partner Jo Kingsford
John Baker and partner Jo Kingsford

But at the age of 68, the grandad has decided to retire and spend more time on the golf course and enjoying leisure time with his parter, Jo.

The couple were given a rousing send-off by regulars last Friday night, which John admits was "quite emotional".

"I can quite honestly say that I have never got up in the morning and not looked forward to going to work, despite sometimes having a headache," he said, speaking afterwards.

"I've enjoyed every minute of it and thought of my customers as friends, which is probably why I've stayed in the game so long.

"We've had people come in from all over the world who just wanted to experience a proper, traditional English pub, who I've made friends with."

The Ship Inn in Ospringe, Faversham
The Ship Inn in Ospringe, Faversham

"It's just a shame we are losing so many of them," he added, reflecting on the challenges the industry is facing which has forced a lot of pubs to close.

Born in London's West Ham, John did an apprenticeship in marine engineering after leaving school.

But after helping his sister work in a few London boozers, he decided the pub game was the trade for him.

"I guess it's a bit ironic then that the two pubs I've run have both been called The Ship," he said.

John put his heart and soul into the business, including its garden, which has been voted best pub summer garden in the Faversham in Bloom contest for the last four years.

The award-winning garden at The Ship Inn at Ospringe
The award-winning garden at The Ship Inn at Ospringe

The business also has a prized 'certificate of excellence' from Trip Advisor.

"I used to do the lot – cook, tend the garden, sweep the car park, whatever was needed," he said.

"But it's a credit to my staff and Jo as well, because we've been a team.

"But the time is right to let someone else have it, so I can go and hit the golf course."

The Ship is owned by the Stonegate Group and the new licensees who took over this week are the Lamba family, who also run the Cowshed Bar and Grill in Birchington.

"I'm sure they will have their own ideas, especially with the food, but I hope it will also stay a traditional pub," said John.

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