When Ryan Williams took over the Penllwyndu way back in 2005, everyone who knew him had a gut feeling that this was the man who could make it work.

Fast forward 18 years and the pub is a living testimony to Williams' iconic personality, his dedication to his job but most importantly of all, to the fulfilment he gets from serving his customers.

“The loyalty they’ve shown me over the years has been incredible,” he says at half past eleven on a Sunday morning, which is hardly the best time to interview a chef.

“Hang on a minute…have I left something on the stove? Or did I forget to put anything in? I can’t remember now.”

Few would deny that Ryan Williams really is a legend to the nth degree.

Born and raised in Cardigan, he left home at 16 to join the Merchant Navy.

“I was a galley boy to begin with and then I became a cook, but the interesting thing was, every time I came home on leave, I had a different house to live in.

“My father (the late Ivor the Glô – Ivor the coal) was always buying houses and moving around, so I lived in two houses in Penparc and three houses in Cardigan.”

After leaving the Merchant Navy, Ryan began working at the Glanafon Bakery in Llechryd before taking over his father’s business as a coal merchant.

It was during this period that he developed his passion for cricket, which is the sport by which many local people will remember him.

“I was a proper cricket nut and probably played far too much of it for my own good,” he laughs.

“I wouldn’t say I was ever particularly good, but I couldn’t get enough of it and every year the Bronwydd Bohemians who I played with would go on tour around France, Ireland, Scotland, Wales…in fact we’d go anywhere that would have us.”

After retiring from the coal business, Ryan helped prepare the food at the Finch Square Café when it was run by Eiriol Davies and her sister, Eleri Maskell. This must have reignited Ryan’s passion for cooking and in September 2005, after learning that the Penllwyndu was in need of a new landlord, he and his wife Patricia decided to take it over.

“Strangely enough, I’d lived in the Penllwyndu back in 1971 when I was working on the coal, but obviously it was just a house then, after it closed down as a pub in 1926.

“It re-opened in 1985 and when Pat and I heard that the owner, Terry Porter, was looking for someone to run it, we decided to give it a go.”

As far as local trade is concerned, the Penlwyndu is far from blessed.  You can count the number of local properties on one hand while its geographic location - slap-bang between Cardigan to the west and Newcastle Emlyn to the east - means that it’s hardly the place from where you can walk home after having a few drinks too many. But where there’s a will, there’s a way.

“For one reason or another, the trade has always been steady, even when many pubs were struggling to pick up after the covid pandemic.

“I suppose this is because the pub has got a character of its own, and over the years there’ve been some fantastic locals who’ve supported us…people like the late Will Trewindsor and Haydn George…and to this day the pub still seems to attract people from across a wide radius.

“Yes, you need patience and sometimes I could swing for them. But we’ve made some fantastic friends over the years and there’s always someone out there who’s ready to help me with things like laptops and Wi-Fi and rubbish like that.”

Perhaps one of the reasons that Ryan stands out as an exemplary landlord is his determination to do absolutely everything required in running a popular and efficient pub. And that includes creating new dishes for his menu such as his beef casserole cooked with mushroom, horseradish and Dijon mustard.

“I've never done any fancy food, just basic stuff like lasagnes and cottage pies but I have to say that this beef dish is something else.

"I do it all myself and always have done - the cleaning, the cooking, the serving - it’s a 24/7 job.

“But even though I’m still alive and kicking, my body is telling me that it’s time to start taking things easier which is why we’ve decided to stand down from the Penllwyndu.”

Much to his customers’ regret, Ryan will be pulling his last pint on November 30.

“If I’d had a pound from every person who’s asked me what I’ll do when I finish, I’d be a rich man.

“To be honest, I haven’t got a clue, apart from having a couple of months off and doing nothing. But then if anyone wants a hand to help them in their pub, I’d be happy to help them out.

“I’ve worked long hours all my life, so it’ll be hard not to do anything. At the end of the day, this is what keeps me going.”