BY YANN TEAR
Thousands of thirsty fathers have left their mark by signing a book at a pub in Shepherd’s Bush celebrating their babies’ birth. And a host of famous names have featured in it, says the pub manager, even if the proof is missing because so many pages have been stolen by souvenir hunters.
Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe and actress Dame Helen Mirren are among those who were in it, having been born round the corner at what was the Queen Charlotte and Chelsea Hospital.
Daniel Warwick celebrated the arrival of his baby boy Jean Joseph with a few drinks at The Raven pub outside the hospital in November 1949. Mr Warwick could not have known when he scribbled “we’ve found out wat dun it” in the pub’s maternity book that more than 10,000 fathers would follow in his footsteps over the next 70 years.
Manager David Finan, from Ireland, found the three original books titled The Raven Greets The Stork in the attic after being told by the previous owner that they had been destroyed in a fire.
Mr Finan said: “There is massive emotion in these books, all different types of people, cultures and stories”.
As well as Radcliffe and Mirren, the books boast famous babies such as Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols, American jazz singer Zak Starkey, and actress Mischa Barton. But sadly their pages had already been torn out by petty thieves who wanted to cash in on their fame.
Mr Finan said: “The most terrible thing is for the other people on the page. The other day a woman walks in and asked to see the book, saw the book and saw her page was missing.
Her daughter had died in a car crash and someone had taken the page. “One of the most horrible experiences I have had to deal with in this pub.”
The Raven and the stork went their separate ways when Queen Charlotte and Chelsea Hospital moved to East Acton in October 2000. But fathers continue to flock to the 180-year-old pub.
Regular Kevin Flanagan had forgotten what he wrote in the book after his daughter Molly was born in 1998. Mr Flanagan was overwhelmed when in 2013 staff convinced him to read back his words, which open with: “Better to be a dad than a lad.”
The west London bar manager said: “The enjoyment of it is amazing. Especially when dads can’t remember what they wrote in the book. I’ve never seen a man so anxious to break down into tears of joy”.
The Raven, at 375 Goldhawk Road, first opened its doors in 1839 when it was part of Ravenscourt Manor House. The house was demolished after it was severely damaged by incendiary bombs during the Second World War.
Mr Finan, who took over the reins in 2013, said: “This pub is a community pub. Two of my brothers worked with me today. It’s a family pub. It’s packed with emotions.
Everyone knows your name and people care to share and care to listen. “There’s no hand lotion in the toilet, but you come here and you know exactly what you’re going to get.”