End of an era for town as it mourns ‘pi­o­neer’ Alan

The Oban Times - - News - LOUISE GLEN lglen@oban­times.co.uk

FLAM­BOY­ANT Oban en­tre­pre­neur Alan MacLeod, the in­spi­ra­tion be­hind the crit­i­cally ac­claimed Ee-usk res­tau­rant, died last week, aged 73, af­ter a short ill­ness.

Alan MacLeod, who has been praised for his work as a seafood ‘pi­o­neer’ and a pas­sion­ate ad­vo­cate for Oban - was also known to many as a won­der­ful fam­ily man who doted on his fam­ily and his pet dog, Bella.

Peo­ple from all over Scot­land, and fur­ther afield, were due to at­tend his fu­neral yesterday (Wed­nes­day), in Ea­gle­sham, East Ren­frew­shire.

Many will re­mem­ber that around his ta­ble at ei­ther Eeusk or Pi­azza on the North Pier on most morn­ings, a col­lec­tion of lo­cal wor­thies and busi­nes­sown­ers would gather sort­ing out the world’s prob­lems over a copy of the Rac­ing Post, and on a Thurs­day, the Oban Times.

Many ideas took shape around the ta­ble - Oban For­ward, a pre­cur­sor to BID4Oban, ad­vice to the newly formed board of Oban Phoenix Cin­ema, Oban Bay Ma­rina and var­i­ous other cam­paigns to im­prove the town and the qual­ity of the fa­cil­i­ties and ameni­ties for both tourists and lo­cals.

One of his more con­tro­ver­sial ideas was to erect a gi­ant sculp­ture of a fish­er­man throw­ing his net to the sea from the Pulpit Hill. It caused con­tro­versy in the town. His plan for the fish­er­man hap­pened shortly be­fore the idea for the Kelpies in Falkirk took solid form.

The suc­cess­ful mix of bring­ing sus­tain­able seafood and fine drinks was a novel one in the late 1980s. It hap­pened by ac­ci­dent. Alan and his wife, Sheila, wanted their first Ar­gyll pub to be a lit­tle busier. As Glas­gow pub own­ers, Alan and Sheila were used to a hec­tic lifestyle.

They had pur­chased the derelict pier­house in Port Ap­pin in 1987, but, de­spite a ma­jor re­fur­bished in March 1988, Alan said trade was very quiet.

In a re­cent in­ter­view he ex­plained: ‘We hadn’t ex­pected to be run off our feet, but this was se­vere. We were los­ing money daily. It was Sheila’s idea to add fresh seafood to the menu.

‘The wee creel boat that landed just 20 me­tres from us had the most amaz­ing catch of lan­gous­tine and squat lob­sters.

‘We had al­ready been serv­ing some pub grub, but with Sheila’s ad­di­tion of fresh seafood to the menu, busi­ness boomed.’

Be­tween 1991 and 1993 the cou­ple added 11 bed­rooms to the pier­house. They won awards, and were listed in the pop­u­lar Egon Ronay guide and The Good Ho­tel Guide. Daugh­ter, Julie, and son, Cal­lum, joined their par­ents to work in the ho­tel in the early 1990s.

In 2001, the MacLeods opened Ee-usk, along with its sis­ter res­tau­rant, Pi­azza, on Oban’s North Pier, bring­ing iconic red roofs to the town.

The restau­rants have had pride of place on Oban’s North Pier win­ning global recog­ni­tion ever since.

Alan is sur­vived by Sheila, Cal­lum and Julie and four grand­chil­dren.

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