Bogus Pope’s visit to St Albans pub

ST ALBANS: City centre publican Jay Franco could be forgiven for thinking he had one too many on Saturday when the Pope popped into his pub for a pint.

While there was definitely no blessing, a fake Pope, protected by security, visited the Duke of Marlborough pub on Holywell Hill as part of a series of escapades aimed at cashing in on the real Pope’s visit to the UK.

Jay, landlord of the 156-year-old pub, said he thought something fishy was afoot when burly men in dark suits, dark sunglasses and wearing mobile phone earpieces arrived without warning in vehicles with blacked-out windows.

His suspicion was further cemented upon the arrival of a lorry which deposited the fake popemobile outside his pub. A man then changed into papal garb before being chauffeur-driven in his apparently convincing-looking popemobile through the city, bemusing local people.

The elaborate publicity stunt was part of a marketing gimmick for Ireland betting giant Paddy Power. Various websites have carried information about the fake popemobile being wheelclamped, and at one stage pulled over by police in London following the security scare during Pope Benedict XVI’s four-day visit.

Jay described the visit as an “elaborate hoax, but very funny”.