The Cockle Man’s Saturday Surprise!

When Nottingham legend Dave ‘The Cockleman’ Bartram dragged himself out in the pouring rain this morning to ply his trade at November’s Village Market, his visit turned out to be a little more rewarding than he’d expected!

So as not to spoil the surprise, members of the RVCP Market Team were sworn to secrecy that their unique, VIP trader had just had one of Ruddington’s Nottingham City Transport Biogas Green 10 buses named after him!  72 year-old Dave was escorted to the Chapel Street bus stop to see his special bus arrive – and was clearly delighted when he spotted his name on the front: “I think it’s marvellous! I never thought it would happen” said Ruddington resident Dave, who usually catches this service to do his nightly rounds in the city.

Anthony Carver-Smith

It was NCT’s Marketing Manager, Anthony Carver-Smith, who came up with the idea of naming one of their state-of the-art double-deckers in his honour: “He’s such a legend” explained Anthony. “I’ve been in the pub when he’s come in with his basket, and sometimes been driving the bus when he’s got on. ‘The Cockleman’ is just one of those characters that people know about. It’s often big celebrities who get things like this – but it’s ordinary people I like to recognise!” 

Indeed, to anyone who’s been a regular Nottingham pub-goer during the past five decades the ‘The Cockle Man’ is something of an institution. Although many probably won’t know his name, most of us will have succumbed to buying one of the tasty, shellfish products from his trademark ‘D & S Quality Seafood’ Basket during a boozy night out.

“1965 was when me and my late wife took over the cockle round from ‘Happy’ Harry Tenby – when he moved to Spain” remembers Dave. “At one point I had seven staff, 250 pubs and Chris Jackson’s Americana International! I lost my wife 19 years’ ago, but have managed to carry on on my own.” It was at that point he moved to Ruddington – and so became a familiar sight around our village, as well as his existing city haunts.

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He’s still welcomed with open arms as something of a tourist attraction by over twenty landlords and landladies at establishments across Nottingham, as he walks from pub to pub selling various seafoods and tasty snacks from his basket. He also collects money for the ‘Rainbows’ charity and a fundraising tea towel was even produced of Dave pictured in all his regular pubs! He’s also often to be found at other venues as diverse as the annual Robin Hood Beer Festival, Riverside Festival and, recently, at Ruddington’s monthly market in the White Horse. His distinctive white fishmonger’s coat and hat make him easy to spot!

Even two muggings – the second resulting in him now needing a crutch after a broken hip – and a shock bowel cancer diagnosis last year didn’t stop Dave for long. He’s now the last, traditional ‘Cockle Man’ in Nottingham and pledges he’ll continue on his daily rounds whilst ever he still can. “I love meeting people, and being able to do my job” he says. His next ambition is to finally be awarded ‘Freedom of the City’ – something which Just The Tonic Comedy Club has campaigned for but which Dave has so far been denied.

Meantime, keep a lookout for ‘Dave The Cockle Man’ ferrying passengers in and out of our village. If you’re really lucky, you might also spot ‘Dave The Cockle Man’ on board!

{Our thanks to Ruddington photographer Paul Witney for some of the above images}

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