Paul Heaton says he put money behind 60 bars across the UK and Ireland so fans could 'enjoy a birthday drink on me'
The Beautiful South and Housemartins frontman contacted 60 pubs across the UK and Ireland and top of his list were Belfast’s Robinsons Bar and Derry city’s Peadar O’Donnell’s.
Heaton, born on May 9 1962, paid all the taprooms with his own cash in the hopes of giving back to his fans.
He said the drinks were a way of thanking "folk who bought my records or showed me support over the years".
The indie rock singer had initially planned to mark his milestone birthday by going on a cycle tour and performing at the 60 pubs, but the idea was foiled by recording delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a Twitter post on Saturday, he wrote: “To celebrate my 60th birthday (on Monday, May 9) I’d originally intended to do another bicycle tour, visiting & performing at 60 pubs across the UK and Ireland. However, due to recording delays caused by the pandemic, I’ve had to shelve these plans for the time being.
“Instead, I’ve decided the next best way to celebrate this coming of age is to handpick 60 pub across the UK and Ireland and put a given amount of money behind the bar of each one. Then, both regulars and yourselves can enjoy a birthday drink on me (until the money runs out, or the bar runs dry!).
“The hope is to bring people together on the day, whilst recognising that many folk who bought my records or showed me support over the years could do with a wee party, as we come out of Covid and hit potential financial struggles.”
He added: "So, if there's one near you please head over on Monday, show your support and raise a toast to me on my birthday!"
Tracy Hill, manager of Robinsons in Belfast is a huge Paul Heaton fan herself, but admitted that when his management team initially got in touch about the initiative via email, she thought it was a scam.
She said: "We weren’t so sure whether it was true or not, so I decided to DM [direct message] Paul on Twitter and thankfully he responded straight away. He said, ‘This is genuine and we’d love for you to be on board’. So I've had a few DMs from him!
"He chose 60 of his favourite pubs from his touring days, and we’re one of those thankfully. We’ve had quite a few extra people coming in, but we’re a bit shy here in Northern Ireland and people don’t always want to say, ‘I’m here for a free drink’ but we’re gladly giving them out until the money runs out!”
Tracy added that Mr Heaton didn’t give any stipulations with the cash.
"He just gave us £1,000 and said to use it for our regulars and any customers to come in and enjoy a drink. So basically anyone who has come in from 4pm, we’ve been giving them all their first drinks for free until the money runs out,” she continued.
"People were handing us cash or cards and we said, ‘No the drinks are on Paul Heaton at the moment’ and there’s a few blank facial expressions when some don’t know who he is, but it’s a really good buzz and we’re telling everyone to take photos of their drinks and put them on social media to tag Paul, to thank him.”
Beautiful South's links to Northern Ireland don’t stop here either. The band’s biggest hit - and only number one - was A Little Time in October 1990, featuring Portstewart’s very own Brianna Corrigan on lead female vocals.
With that hit, Briana became the first woman from here to sing on a number one UK single since Derry’s Dana won the Eurovision with All Kinds of Everything in 1970.
The Grafton in Hull, where Mr Heaton and his Housemartins bandmates were regulars and which inspired the group's 1986 hit Happy Hour, is also among the pubs on his list, as well as ones in Donegal, Dublin and throughout the island of Ireland and Britain.
The Housemartins shot to fame in the early 80s, going on to chart three top 10 albums and six top 20 singles
The band’s cover version of Caravan of Love reached Number One in the UK charts in December 1986.
After the band split, Mr Heaton formed the Beautiful South in 1988, which became one of the biggest-selling UK acts of all time, releasing 15 albums over nine years, most of which went platinum or gold.
He now performs in a duo with Beautiful South bandmate Jacqui Abbott, whom Tracy has also been to seen live many times as well.
While she has never had the pleasure of meeting Heaton, she hopes that he calls in for a drink himself some time soon, and after clocking off at 5pm on Monday, was happy to enjoy a free drink from her favourite frontman herself.