Popular Sunderland pub landlord who inspired Toy Dolls loses cancer fight

Dougie Bell, left, at The Sandcastle in 2010 with regional manager Andy Metcalfe
Dougie Bell, left, at The Sandcastle in 2010 with regional manager Andy Metcalfe
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A landlord who was so popular with punters that an iconic punk band penned a track in his honour has lost his battle with cancer.

Dougie Bell, 65, had spent decades pulling pints at Sunderland pubs, but it was his time as the manager of the famous Old 29 pub which inspired The Toy Dolls to write Do You Wanna Be Like Dougy Bell?

His widow, Christine Bell, says the track was one of the many highlights in a colourful career which saw him enjoy stints behind the bar at The Colonel Prior in Doxford Park, former pubs Masters and Metro in the city centre and, most recently, at The Sandcastle in Ryhope.

Christine, 50, who lived with Dougie in Hastings Street, Hendon, said: “We work in the kitchen at The Sandcastle on a Sunday and he would always have his music blasting. He loved The Toy Dolls and that they had made a song about him. He always told stories about when they played the Old 29.

“He was such a sociable character. You only had to meet Dougie once and you fell in love with him”

Dougie worked at the long-gone pub during its heyday of the late ‘70s and ‘80s, when it was owned by Stan Nelson, during which it became famous for its Saturday afternoon gigs featuring local bands.

Dougie Bell

Dougie Bell

Sunderland band The Toy Dolls, whose hits included their punk rock cover of Nellie the Elephant, performed at the bar, which used to stand opposite The Londonderry, numerous times, as well as bands including Angelic Upstarts, Stiff Little Fingers, King Crabs (featuring Jimmy Nail), The Groundhogs and more.

Christine said: “Dougie loved telling stories about The Old 29. He was there when the Angelic Upstarts kicked a pig’s head wearing a police helmet into the crowd, as well as when Jimmy Nail performed there.

“He also used to tell a story about when his doorman charged rock journalist Garry Bushell to come and see a new band there.”

After the closure of The Old 29 Dougie continued to work at pubs and was still pulling pints at The Sandcastle until last year.

The Toy Dolls at the Sunderland Echo offices, Pennywell, March 1981
Wednesday Retro 1981

The Toy Dolls at the Sunderland Echo offices, Pennywell, March 1981 Wednesday Retro 1981

He was diagnosed with bowel cancer in April and underwent a course of chemotherapy in a bid to tackle the illness. After a five month fight, he died peacefully at home last Friday surrounded by his family.

“He was fighter and he fought all the way,” said Christine. “He fought until the end because he didn’t want to leave me and he didn’t want to leave his children. He wanted to create more memories.”

As well as Christine, Dougie leaves his children Jason, Deborah, Andrea, Christopher and Yasmin.

Dougie’s funeral will take place next week. Details to be confirmed.