PUBS around a wide area have been shutting their doors today (Wednesday) in advance of a funeral tomorrow for a 10-year-old Traveller boy which is expected to be attended by hundreds of mourners.
Pubs and eateries have closed in Christchurch, Highcliffe and Barton as up to 1,000 people are anticipated at the memorial, which the A&T understands is due to be held at St Joseph’s Church in Purewell.
Staff at a number of hostelries in the area told the A&T privately they had shut temporarily amid nervousness about potential rowdy behaviour.
However, the closures were criticised as unnecessary and prejudiced by Betty Smith-Billington (72), the chair of Dorset Traveller charity Kushti Bok.
Dorset Police and BCP Council both said they were aware of the funeral but had not advised any pubs or shops in the Christchurch and Bournemouth area to close.
A BCP Council spokesperson said that “usual bereavement services and arrangements are in place as they would for any other funeral”.
However, the landlord at the Nelson Tavern in Mudeford told the A&T: “We were advised by the police that we should shut tomorrow (Thursday) because there is a traveller funeral at which up to 1,000 mourners are expected.”
The Toby Carveries in Hinton and at Cooper Dean will be both be closed tomorrow, said management company Mitchells & Butlers. A spokesperson claimed it was on the advice of Pub Watch and the local licensing authority – BCP Council.
The decision to close was taken by many of the local hostelries following talks among their representatives at Pub Watch meetings.
Others reportedly not trading today include Cat & Fiddle at Hinton, the Housemartin at Barton, Napoleon’s in Highcliffe, along with Christchurch pubs The Ye Old George Inn, the Ship, and the Railway.
Rumours that Castlepoint shopping centre near Bournemouth was also closing to customers were denied by a spokesperson.
One Christchurch publican claimed some Travellers were camping in the car parks of the Two Riversmeet Leisure Centre, off Stony Lane South and The Smugglers Run pub, which is near St Joseph’s Church on Purewell.
Another claimed to have been caused nearly £1,500 of damage in February when a rowdy group of Travellers damaged his till after he refused to serve them.
The closures were criticised by Mrs Smith-Billington (72), chair of Kushti Bok which works in Dorset to raise understanding and awareness of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers.
Mrs Smith-Billington, who lives in Christchurch, claimed the same thing happened 20 years ago at the funeral of her father, a former Royal Marine, when police advised pubs not to host the wake.
She said of the latest closures: “It’s very sad because at the end of the day these people are Travellers but they are human beings and they’re no different from anyone else.
“It’s a shame that some of the media incite hatred among people. Before people have even come to the funeral there all this hype.
“It happens, it’s a large family and if there’s any trouble, well there’s trouble anywhere. There’s always trouble in Christchurch and it’s rarely the gypsies that create the trouble.
“I feel very sad for the family, especially as it’s such a young lad. I feel the people of Christchurch should have some more respect.”