At Random – March 18 2021

Martin Laing

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Bon voyage

So, Captain Eric Smith is firmly joining the rest of us landlubbers full-time now as he retires after his hugely impressive 47 years at sea, many of them with the Northern Lighthouse Board.

I had the pleasure of meeting Eric in the autumn of last year, when we blew the froth from the top of a beer or two at the Whisky Vaults pub in Oban town centre and blethered at some length (I know: no surprise there) about various things but principally his career and the ship now known as the Fingal, which is berthed in Edinburgh.

The Fingal is a former Northern Lighthouse Board vessel and is wowing visitors in its new role as a floating luxury hotel at the port of Leith, where it is to be found close to Ocean Terminal and the Royal Yacht Britannia.

In last week’s Oban Times, Eric told my colleague Ellis Butcher that as a youngster he had hoped to forge a career as a police officer. I think he made the correct decision in opting for seafaring.

Eric is undoubtedly one of Oban’s good guys and, if we ever get out of lockdown, I’ll look forward to toasting his retirement in whatever pub he chooses in the town. Good luck to you, Eric.

Positively good news

I was chuffed to read that MGM Muthu Hotels has added the Regent Hotel on the Esplanade to its portfolio – the company also owns the Queens and the Alexandra on the seafront – and has pledged to carry out a ‘major refurbishment’.

Now, I have no interest personally in MGM Muthu but the art deco Regent is one of Oban’s most important buildings and will be key to the resuscitation of the hospitality sector in the town. The group has also said it hopes to create some 30 new jobs when it reopens, hopefully around the end of April.

That is a welcome vote of confidence in the town by a fairly major player in the tourism industry and can only be good news for the Oban area.

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