As It Happens

Wanted: All-in-one landlord, pub manager and monarch for remote U.K. island

Have you ever wanted to be crowned king or queen of your own island? A council in England might have a job for you.

The U.K.'s Piel Island, home to a ruined castle and a centuries-old pub, is hiring

A sailboat glides past Piel Island off the coast of England, home to a pub and a 14th-century castle. (Ercesuzan/Shutterstock)

Have you ever wanted to be crowned king or queen? A council in England might have a job for you.

But if you take the gig, you'll move to a remote British island with a population of exactly two, get drenched with beer, and be the caretaker and landlord of a centuries-old pub.

Oh, and the monarch title is purely symbolic.

But tour guide John Murphy says it's well worth the trouble for the chance to live full-time on Piel Island, which he says is known for its "pure isolation and incredible beauty."

"If they choose the solitude of sitting there on a glorious sunset, watching a few seals sunbathing, that's not a bad lifestyle is it, really?" Murphy told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

A small island with a big history

Piel is a small island off the coast of northwest England, reachable by ferry between April and September. 

It's currently home to one couple, a booming population of seals, a badly damaged 14th-century castle, and a pub called the Ship Inn, which is believed to be more than 300 years old. 

The pub is owned by the Barrow-in-Furness local government council, which is hiring a landlord to look after the pub and operate it in the summer, when it opens for tourists.

"Piel Island is a unique place and any operator needs to appreciate the constraints offered by power, weather, access and its location," a recent council report notes.

The Ship Inn on Piel Island is seen here in this still from Google Street View. (Google)

The person who gets the job will also be crowned monarch of the island, Murphy said. It's not an official part of the council's job description, but Murphy says it's tradition. 

It dates back to 1487, when Lambert Simnel, a 10-year-old pretender to the throne of England, camped overnight on Piel with 4,000 mercenaries on their way to London to claim the throne. 

They were roundly defeated during the Battle of Stoke Field in Nottinghamshire, the last battle of the Wars of the Roses. The young would-be king was spared and pardoned, and later went on to be King Henry's falconer. 

Any landlord or any landlady, in turn, will be knighted king.- John Murphy, Piel Island tour guide- John Murphy, Piel Island tour guide

Fast forward to the mid-1800s and "some of the local fishermen were sitting in the bar with a glass of very strong lemonade, and they were thinking, 'Well, if we can't have a future king of England, we'll have our own king of the island,'" Murphy said.

"So a decision was made that any landlord or any landlady, in turn, will be knighted king."

Applicant must like smoking, drinking and cavorting 

That landlord/monarch is always crowned in a ceremony that involves being doused with buckets of beer, and reciting an oath to "be a modest smoker, a good drinker, [and] a lover of all women or all men," Murphy said.

"And that is the oath that the king or queen will take when we appoint the new king next year in April," Murphy said.

Murphy, 72, has been visiting Piel Island for more than 60 years. In the summers, he guides walking tours there.

"When I was much younger, we had some amazing nights in the pub, and I must have slept on every blade of grass, drunk and sober, in rain, wind and snow. Over the years, I've staggered out of that pub looking for a tent that I couldn't remember where I put. And then, I just curl up in a corner somewhere for the night," he said. 

He says he'd love to apply for the job himself, but he worries he may be too old.

"I am considering it," he said. "I am seriously thinking: Could I end my days with a happy smile on my face sharing a pint with 800 seals? I think I could, you know."


Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Katie Geleff. 

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