From a shipwrecked Buccaneer came an all-conquering Wapentake
Sheffield and the wider South Yorkshire region has always punched well above its weight in the rock department.
It has produced multi-million selling bands like Def Leppard and Saxon – even Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson was schooled here.
Sheffielder Pete Gill drummed for Saxon and ended up in Mötorhead.
The Bailey Brothers – DJs that ended up fronting MTV’s first rock show – hail from Killamarsh.
They might never have achieved the success they did had it not been for the camaraderie and support provided by the city’s venues and the sprawling communities attached to them .
Few places produced and nurtured an audience like the Wapentake.
It was a die-hard family like no other – and it’s network of former punters still exist on buoyant Wapentake-inspired Facebook groups.
Once you entered the subterranean world you either loved it or hated it.
And even if you did decide the Wapentake fashions and lifestyles weren’t for your liking you might have been totally thrown by the appearance of the smartly dressed, middle aged landlady – someone seemingly totally at odds with her surroundings.
Olga Marshall was a virtual teetotal and a mother of four by the mid-1970s – she would probably have looked more at home running an upmarket guesthouse than a downtown den of rock’n’roll iniquity.
But run it she did and she ran it well. Even the Hells Angels became model citizens under her watch.
Olga Marshall’s dominance of the city’s after dark scene actually started as far back as 1964 – years before future rock trailblazers like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple had even formed.
Olga (centre) and staff at the Buccaneer
She landed a job as a barmaid at the Buccaneer – a set of themed bars sited under the Grand Hotel which used to sit on Sheffield’s Leopold Street.
This is where the future Wapentake connection occurred.
The Buccaneer was part of the Grand Hotel that used to be sited on Leopold Street – the business was operated by future Wapentake owners, Trust House Forte.
It’s fair to say they’d never figured on their nautical-themed venue being turned into a bastion of alternative rock sounds.
But they didn’t figure on the headstrong world of Olga Marshall whose influence was felt from day one.
The venue’s music policy was one of the first things she wanted changing to help draw in more punters.
Olga Marshall said: “We’d only got a jukebox so I spoke to the management company about getting a DJ in. They brought in a company called DRM who came along with flashing lights and the full set-up but they just weren’t what we wanted at all.
“I asked if I could sort something out and I found George Webster, who was playing at Page Hall’s Cannon Hall social club at at the time, and he started playing the kind of music that my customers liked.”
Her success that night sealed her fate and started her rock scene dominance that was to last over three decades.
“We took more on our first night with George than the Buccaneer took on its average weekend”, she proudly said.
The Buccaneer became one of the city’s busiest venues with Olga at the helm. The venue was a massive concern with around 60 staff. The Buccaneer was also ideally placed to serve the punters on the way to the nearby Sheffield City Hall – a venue that was already securing landmark gigs by the bands that were shaping the fast developing rock movement.
The concert venue’s ticket outlet, Wilson Peck Ltd, was also sited next door to the Buccaneer.
Fans were quite happy to queue all night to ensure they landed tickets for Led Zeppelin in one of their early gigs in Sheffield.
Olga Marshall soon became a regular fixture in the local press and her venue became the stuff of legend.
Buccaneer Bar regular Peter Eales said: “The Buccaneer had a true aura of rebellion. There was nowhere else playing music like it in Sheffield.
“You went to the Buccaneer if you wanted to hear stuff that was different, that wasn’t mainstream. There were lots of different rooms but it was that dark you could never tell where you were anyway.”
Unfortunately the nautical rock’n’roll action wasn’t to last.
Trust House Forte sold the site for redevelopment and, despite outlasting the Grand Hotel upstairs which was bulldozed and replaced by an office block a few weeks earlier, The Buccaneer shut its doors for the last time in mic-1970s after 1,979 days of custom.
The clientele were absolutely distraught. Aware of the widespread dismay at the thought of closure among the hardcore following, the management made the decision to close the bars without warning in a bid to stop souvenir hunters.
Olga and staff at the Wapentake
Thankfully, the tears didn’t last long. The Wapentake saw to that. In fact the bar had one of the longest and most successful runs of any after dark venue in the city’s history…
* Taken from the new 'Dirty Stop Out's Guide to Sheffield - Wapentake Edition'.