SADDLEWORTH’S longest serving pub landlord has called last orders for the final time at his pretty roadside hostelry.

After 40 years, colourful Ray Hicks has closed The Three Crowns at Huddersfield Road, Scouthead.

The announcement was made on social media by his wife Sue, a mother of two, who informed customers: “It is with deep regret and sadness we have closed.

“We would like to thank our dedicated staff and loyal customers for their support over the last 40 years. Please respect our privacy.”

Ray, aged 68, who had a distinguished career as a top flight professional rugby league player with Oldham and later Keighley, said: “We had very loyal and respected customers plus tremendous staff.

“We have always valued The Three Crowns traditions and it’s been very humbling to be at the heart of the community and receive so many genuine good luck messages.”

Under the couple’s stewardship, The Three Crowns became the hub of the community and raised many thousands of pounds for local, national charities and worthwhile good causes.

And over the years, the pub has collected a host of brewing industry accolades and several distinguished awards for its beautiful outside floral displays.

And Ray received a special certificate from the Rochdale, Oldham and Bury branch of CAMRA, the brewery watchdog, in recognition of services he provided the branch over the years.

A spokesman for the Scouthead and Austerlands Community Group praising the couple said: “We’d like to thank them for all help and commitment given to the group.

“We have many happy memories of coffee mornings and of the themed evening meals. You both have supported us and we will miss your company at our meetings.”

In the deluge of goodwill messages, Oldham’s former mayor, Cllr Derek Heffernan, a long time, regular, said: “Since Ray took over the changes have only been for the good. They have raised thousands for charity, including Macmillan, and they have made a real difference to so many good causes.”