I've really missed the pubs, says legend Malcolm the Fish Man

It's been a long time since he went from pub to pub selling seafood

Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 9:00 am
Malcolm 'the Fish Man' Vials. Credit: Made in Corby.

For most of us, the closure of pubs as part of Covid-19 restrictions just meant we couldn't go for a pint.

But for one Kettering and Corby legend, it was an abrupt halt to something he'd been doing for more than 40 years.

Malcolm Vials - better known as Malcolm the Fish Man - had been going from pub to pub, wearing his white smock and selling seafood from a wicker basket, since the 1970s.

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Almost everyone in the two towns had met him in a pub at some point, with the pensioner visiting more than a dozen watering holes every Friday and Saturday come rain or shine.

Then the coronavirus came. Pubs closed on March 23 last year, forcing Malcolm and the nation to stay at home, and have opened and closed ever since with differing sets of restrictions.

After more than three months of the latest closure they will finally re-open for outdoor service next Monday (April 12).

But Malcolm, who is now 80, won't be returning to see his legion of fans just yet.

He told the Northants Telegraph: "I would love to go back round the pubs at some point. As much as it's a job I just love the people.

"I've really missed going to the pubs and seeing the people of Kettering and I've missed the people of Corby.

"But I won't be going back until it's comfortable for me to do it."

He still remembers the week the first lockdown came - and thinks he's still got some seafood in his big freezer.

Like most people, he didn't think the pandemic would last as long as it has.

But, after more than a year of the nation battling the virus and with some form of restrictions looking likely for the foreseeable, he thinks it will be a while until pubs return to normal.

He said: "I don't think it's ever going to be the same again.

"I can't imagine the pubs being full for a while. We'll just have to play it all by ear."

Malcolm's popularity shone through when he topped our poll over who should turn on Kettering's Christmas lights by a whopping majority in 2018.

He eventually played a cameo role and 'said he felt like a bloody pop star', starring on the night with Kettering's snooker hero Kyren Wilson.

With the future of the pandemic still uncertain Malcolm doesn't yet know when he'll get back to doing what he loves - meeting people and selling cockles, prawns, prawn cocktail, mussels, ocean sticks and the occasional Peperami.

But he hinted he could potentially make a comeback of sorts in the summer if big events return.

He said: "If there was a special event or a beer festival and someone wanted me to go and asked, I probably will."

Malcolm, who worked as a supervisor at T Groocock & Co for 48 years, still lives in Barton Seagrave and has been keeping active by going for daily walks.

He previously said he would never give up - and he promised he will be ready whenever the time comes for him to return.

He said: "I've still got 20 years left in me!"