An outpouring of loving tributes and fond memories has followed the death of Agnes Flett, the legendary barmaid who worked for almost 40 years at Aberdeen’s famous pub, The Grill.
The 82-year-old – described as “the heart of The Grill” – passed away on Christmas Eve after a long-battle with cancer, said her son Stephen Noble.
He said he had been overwhelmed by the affection and love shown to his mum as messages and online tributes have flooded in for the family.
“I just thought ‘wow, that’s fantastic’,” said Stephen. “My mum was kind of private in a way and never wanted any fuss. But she would have been really chuffed at the amount of people who wrote what they did. It was absolutely lovely.”
Oldest barmaid in town
Agnes often joked she was “the oldest barmaid in town” and was a familiar face to decades of customers at The Grill. She only stopped working behind the bar in January this year after being diagnosed with stomach cancer and undergoing an operation.
But Stephen said she had still been planning to return to work, and if it hadn’t been for the coronavirus would have back in action pulling pints.
“She really loved every day working at The Grill, she knew everyone, you couldn’t go down the street, or go anywhere, but somebody would know her,” said Stephen. “She always had time to yap to people, and never forgot people’s names. It was her life and she loved that.
“Even my nephew said he’d been in town a few times with his children and the kids used to think my mum was famous because everybody would stop and say hello.”
Stephen said part of his mother’s funeral on Thursday January 7 would include a fitting tribute to the special place she had in her heart for The Grill – and staff and customers of The Grill had for her.
Drive past The Grill
“I have organised for the funeral procession to drive past The Grill at 11am before we go on to the crematorium. I know social distancing is happening, but if people want to stand there, which I know people are going to do, it’s just going to be fantastic,” said Stephen.
Agnes, who was twice divorced, had worked in Broadford Mills as a young woman, then worked at the Wimpy on Bridge Street for many years before it closed. She then had almost 40 years in The Grill.
Stephen said while The Grill was important to his mum, she was important to The Grill.
“She was popular and no one would say a bad word about her. I spoke to Graham (Watson, former owner of The Grill) recently and he said: ‘Everybody knew her, she always had a friendly face for everyone, she knew everyone and knew their drink. She was well-loved’.”
As well as her love of working in The Grill, Agnes also had a passion for her holidays, said Stephen, a janitor at Robert Gordon’s College, adding if it hadn’t been for Covid-19 she would have been on her travels again.
“She went on cruise after cruise and the places she has seen are unbelievable. She went for cruises round South America, all of the Med. She visited the Far East, she went to Russia and Sweden. She loved it, and she always bumped into somebody who if they knew Aberdeen would turn round and say ‘oh you work in The Grill, don’t you?’”
Despite her globetrotting, Agnes would never take a photo, said Stephen.
“I would ask ‘why do you never take a photograph?’ and she would say: ‘It’s all in my head… I don’t need a photograph to remind me about the Sistine Chapel, or Monte Carlo, or Rio De Janeiro’.”
Heart of The Grill
Stephen, whose two sisters Alison and Jennifer passed away several years ago, said Agnes leaves four grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
“But she was also nana to a lot of people in her extended family,” he said.
Stephen added Agnes would want to be remembered as someone who had time for people and loved to meet and talk to people.
“I will remember her as someone who would tell me the right things to do. She would tell me off when she needed to and always gave me good advice.”
Allan Henderson, of The McGinty’s Group which now owns The Grill, paid an online tribute to Agnes.
He said: “Agnes was a ‘weel kent face’ and the true heart of The Grill, loved by so many of you, along with the rest of the team over the years. She was a real character with an abundance of tales and treasured memories about her days at The Grill.”
Earlier this year, Agnes shared many of those memories of her time in the Grill with the P&J as the bar celebrated its 150th anniversary. She had tales ranging from the celebrations on the night of the Dons glory in Gothenburg, to serving famous faces like Stephen Tompkinson, as well as local characters like “Cheesy Bill”.
She recounted her first days behind the bar – including the local posties from the GPO who called The Grill their watering hole.
Agnes recalled: “I remember the first week I started I was told at three o’clock on a Thursday, the doors would open and all the posties would come jamming in, through both doors and it would be so crowded. So I hid in the toilet.”
You can read her stories of her time at The Grill here.