A trade journey through the decades

Daniel Marshall reflects on 50-year career in hospitality

Daniel and Ruth Marshall celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary on June 1

LIFE without the hospitality trade is a distant memory for publican and hotelier, Daniel Marshall.

Born into the trade in the 1940s, with his father at war and his mother running the family-owned pub in Edinburgh in his absence, Daniel (79) landed his first job in the bar aged just 12 years old.

And it was then that he began learning his trade, which would lead to a career spanning almost 50 years of owning and managing bars and hotels in Fife and the Highlands.

“As a child, I used to run about the pub and do what I could, but when I turned 12 my mother made me my first cut-down white apron to work behind the bar and I was as proud as punch,” said Daniel.

“I learned the trade from the early days with my dad as I watched the cellar work with my old man and his bar manager.

“Dad sold the Edinburgh pub and moved to Musselburgh a few years after and I worked for him there for about eight years. We also ran drinks receptions at functions and weddings too.

“My father was tight with his money and he never gave me a raise; it took me eight years but I eventually realised I had to get out of there and go my own way.”

Things got off to a flying start for Daniel and his wife Ruth as they secured their first tenancy, The Dundonald Arms Hotel in Culross, in 1966.

“When Ruth and myself went to see the hotel for the first time we fell for it immediately; The National Trust had just moved into the area of Culross and they were doing up some of the houses in the area – it was a tough old place at the time, not like it is now,” said Daniel.

“The pub was old fashioned with a long bar and it had a hall at the back which also had its own bar. We started getting bands to play at the weekends and the place took off. The place wasn’t doing £100 per week when I started but by the end of the year it was taking £1000 per week and in 1966 that was a lot of money.”

But life was not without its challenges.

The couple moved from Culross to own The Boars Head pub in Auchtermuchty for six years, and then to The Garve Hotel in Ross-shire  a 37-bedroom property with a public bar, lounge bar, cafe, caravan park and 20-room staff block –  in 1978.

“As Ruth and I were driving up to interview staff to work in the hotel we were in a terrible car crash and I nearly lost my wife,” said Daniel. “Ruth was unconscious for three days in the hospital and I had to get Ruth back to health so we had to forgo the buying of our dream hotel.

“A few months down the line, however, the hotel came up for sale again so we put in the same offer as before and bought the hotel for the second time, but it was too good to be true.

“A recession hit in the early ’80s and people were told that there was no petrol beyond Perth, so nobody was travelling up north. I couldn’t keep a 37-bedroom hotel running with no visitors during the summer, so we lost the hotel for the second time and most of our money with it. It was a difficult time.”

During the late 1980s, Daniel went on to manage The Red Lion pub in Kinross and The Central Hotel in Edzell, followed by a move to the Royal Findhorn Yacht Club in 1987 where he managed the bar and Ruth was in charge of the catering. Two years later Daniel was appointed clubmaster at the 1000-member Cruden Bay Golf Club in Aberdeenshire until he took up his final position as licensee at The Aultguish Inn in Wester Ross in 1995, where the couple stayed for four years before retiring to the village of Lochcarron.

“People say there is no apprenticeship for working in the licensed trade, but they’re wrong; the training comes from years in the business,” said Daniel.

“There were about 30 licensed venues in Musselburgh at the time my father owned the pub there and he told me that everybody would be selling the same bottles of whisky and beer that we had in our gantry, but it was our job to sell them better – and he was right.

“Every move I made was to try and better myself, but it wasn’t always easy.”

And it’s not just trade milestones that Daniel and Ruth have accumulated over the years; the couple celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary on June 1.

Daniel said: “Ruth and I were married in Melville Castle in 1960. We couldn’t celebrate with our family as we’d hoped due to the coronavirus outbreak but I painted a mural of Eilean Donan Castle and Ruth and I sat in front of it in our garden and our family and neighbours toasted to us from across the fence – the painting and the afternoon turned out well.”