As I sit here this evening it would have been a very different picture 40 years ago.
On 31st May 1974 Robin and Sheena Buchanan-Smith officially opened Eriska as a hotel. On one side 40 years must seem a lifetime ago and on another it seems to have flown by. Over that time we have been lucky enough to have worked with some wonderful team members who have helped make Eriska what it is today and we have been fortunate enough that so many have crossed our wee rickety bridge to place their trust in us to deliver a relaxing experience.
However the greatest achievement for us as a family is the fact that even after 40 years we are still here and still operating and running Eriska, although sometimes it feels a bit backwards in that Eriska really runs us and operates us! My father always used to highlight how difficult it was to welcome guests who became friends and how challenging it was to continually evolve and change to meet their needs and demands but in reality the two are intrinsically linked in that Eriska has always been and for as long as we remain involved- always will be- driven to evolve by our guests and the team we work with.
So what has changed over the last 40 years- well we must seem like an oasis of calm this evening compared to 40 years ago- on this night back in 1974 my parents had just held an opening reception for over 100 of the great and good of the area and those who had supported them on the journey from an empty old house back in July 1973 to a vibrant building in May 1974. The official opening was by Tom Flemming and my mother missed it as she was carving Smoked Salmon in the kitchen.
They then went on to serve dinner for a full house plus some gluttons for punishment non residents who stayed on form the lunchtime reception. It was not only the hotels first night but also the team and more importantly my parents first night.
The tight schedule had left no time for a dry run or practice- they were still painting the diningroom at lunchtime before service and my fathers perfection stopped us having wet paint signs visible (history will now tell if anyone left the reception with more of a mark than they had anticipated!) so when the full diningroom, on a hot summers evening were all waiting for the main course it could be excused that my father became slightly distraught with his wee hostess trolley, old fashioned bone handled carving knife and small pheasants to carve and a baying crowd of hungry visitors. I have never been sure how long tables waited or how generous the portion sizes were but as far as I have been told everybody remembers the evening as ground breaking, the team learnt a great deal, my father never took to carving pheasant out of choice and Eriska was reborn and in truth we have tried never to look back except to reflect on the journey we have taken and look forward on the road ahead.
The most amazing thing is that a young lady form Oban with no professional cooking experience and a Church of Scotland Minister from St Andrews managed to bind a hotel and island and team together to look after the guests with simple hospitality and peace and quiet. The good news is that little has changed today and these three ingredients remain in our bowl and remain at our core and will for the next 40 years.
Happy Birthday Eriska!