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About to Clock Up 30 Years Behind the Bar

Manilla Royal Hotel Mine Hosts Thomas and Vickii Cocking

Manilla Royal Hotel Mine Hosts Thomas and Vickii Cocking have chalked up nearly 30 years behind the bar, and any mention of retirement could be considered a dirty word in the popular coupleís vocabulary.

Wormy wouldnít allow it,î says a jovial Tom of his wife as he remi- nisces over three decades of slog- ging it out as one of the townís longest serving publicans.

The team has built up a long list of devoted clientele over 30 years, but itís been their commitment to hard work ñ helped along by a big portion of torment/humour from Tom ñ that has earned the Tom and Vick name international recognition.

Manilla is considered the number one distance flying site in the world,î Tom skited. ìAt last yearís international open flying comp we had 237 pilots representing 42 different countries. When Adam (son) was in Europe competing, he said everywhere he looked, people were wearing Tom & Vick T-Shirts. When anyone asked where he was from, heíd say ëjust a little place you probably wouldnít know ñ Manilla, just outside Tamworthí, theyíd immediately say Do you know Tom and Vickî.

Rubbing shoulders with interna- tionals dates back to when Tom and Vick first entered the pub in the mid-1980s. Their long list of cliente- lealso includes visitors for Country Music and AgQuip.

Our accommodation is massive, but probably the best part for us is the overseas competitors who have put our little town on the map.In the 2007 World Paragliding Championships, we were flat out ñ had them from everywhere. The four kids (Renai, Amber, Adam and Joel) all helped ñ three up front in the pub, while Adam unloaded, packed and stacked. That was the first time the titles had been held in an English-speaking country, Tom said.

Vickii though is quick to mention the great support theyíve had from locals.ìWe have a diverse clientele and such great supporting people here.

Thomas Cocking was born and raised in Manilla while Vickii is a product of Werris Creek, moving to west of Collarenebri at five and receiving schooling by isolated cor- respondence until several years later when the family moved to Manilla district and she experi- enced her first official day at school, aged 13 at Manilla High.

They leased the Royal for 10 years from 1985 ñ Vickís parents Jack and Midge Moran joining them in the partnership. They left the pub to run their newly-acquired corner store (which was only sold in June last year). Vickii ran that for nine years while Tom worked behind the bar at the local RSL. Prior to pub and corner store life, the couple operated a mixed cloth- ing store – Vick and Tomís Fashions (ëfrom the womb to the tombí they joked of the slogan). Then 18 years ago, they returned to the Royal ñ ìitís in our bloodî they both agreed, Vick boasting of sealing the deal while Tom was at work.

We went back in on the Sunday, and had our first reserva- tion on Monday ñ a Split Rock dam worker. We had a lot of them stay while it was being built,î Tom said.

The Royalís workload requires almost 24/7 dedication with over-seas people ringing for accommodation during their day, which was early morning hours here.

Vickii says ìtheyíre crazy days ñ hardly get to bed sometimes, but we love it. And weíve only ever shut for Christmas Day or family funer- als.

As with many small businesses, COVID 19 has caused hiccups, though advantageous to the Cockings. Vick never stopped serving takeaway meals out back. We did a lot of renovations ñ the whole bar area and dining room. Next stages will be replace the back verandah, wrought iron and all the upstairs.

Tom too is quick to praise his wife ñ ìitíd be very hard to replace Wormy, she loves what she does, is very particular with the food, and is a good person-to-person ñ loves a chatî.

The coupleís last break away from the pub was 10 years ago when they attended daughter Amberís ìrunaway weddingî in Fiji. ìWe do 95 percent of the work ourselves ñ and have very good casual staff, Tom said.

A Thomas Cocking story though would be incomplete without men- tion of his love of sport, particular- ly rugby league and horse racing.

Wormy made me give up league at 38 when I was captain/coach of Tigersí reserve grade. And Iím the last Life Member of the club,î the Parramatta Eelsí die-hard chuck- led.

Their best known galloper was Sir Winalot who took out the Tamworth Gold Cup, a PJ Bell Country Championship in Sydney, won two at Doomben and the Moree Cup.

While Tom jokes that Vickii wonít let him retire, and ìI do as Iím toldî, his serious voice says that their success in the Royal has been Good teamwork. Weíve always worked well together.