Elaine Heads Off On The trail Of Elephants

ElaineWhen she was young Elaine’s father was in the Royal Navy. To make extra money to pay for holidays her mum started doing B&B and Elaine would help serve breakfasts before going to school.

Elaine was a keen swimmer and before leaving school swam at international level for Scotland. She was selected for the Commonwealth games but unfortunately developed a reaction to the chlorine in the water and so couldn’t compete.

At the start of her career Elaine trained as a teacher of PE and Early Years and worked at schools in Birmingham. In 1979 she moved to Connel with her husband to work with her parents who were running Dunstaffnage Arms, known to the locals as the Glue Pot! Owain & Callum were born while they were there, but in 1984/85 the family group decided to sell up and buy the Lodge Hotel on Tiree and a house nearby where they could retreat to. Whilst her Dad & husband were busy running the hotel & bar Elaine & her Mum decided to start Sunday Lunches at £5.00 per person: the first week 2 diners arrived this doubled the second week to 4 people and the third Sunday 35 people turned up and as Elaine says, they never looked back.

In 1993, Arran was born. Talking to Elaine on her last day at the Elephants End made me feel like I was talking to an early day Super Woman! Not content with her role in running the Lodge and raising three boys, having previously qualified as a windsurfing instructor, in 1986, along with Catriona MacLennan and Sue Marwick they set up the Windsurfing Club. She also helped at the Playgroup in Balinoe Church and became Play Leader when it moved to the Business Centre.

In the late 1990’s Elaine used another of her talents and taught Art Classes, again at the Business Centre, for some of the Centre’s Clients and Argyll College. Ever keen to encourage youngsters, an Art Group was held in the lodge for Pre 5’s on a Saturday Morning.

Sadly in 2000 Elaine’s Dad died and the family decided to sell the Lodge. Colin Beatty became the new owner in September – by October Elaine was back in the kitchen cooking Sunday Dinners! In 2001 work started on the family house. Using plans thought up by Elaine’s dad, the house was extended to include a granny flat and the restaurant -Elephants End.

During the building work Elaine continued with her commitments to her groups and also worked at the Scarinish Hotel. The Elephant’s End opened for lunches in 2005 to coincide with an Art Exhibition, Elaine’s workload continued 7 days each week for the next 2 years. Somehow she managed to fit in her work at the school with Pre -5’s, working in the Elephant’s End and the Scarinish Hotel.

In 2006 the decision was made to leave the Scarinish and to start offering evening meals in her own restaurant. Reluctantly, a short while later, Elaine felt she needed to further reduce her commitments and sadly gave up working at the school. In 2008 Elephant’s End customers voted the restaurant into the top 10 of the Scottish Good Food Guide and in 2009 this improved to be in the top 5. They currently have a 4½ star rating on trip advisor. As if all this wasn’t enough, at various times over the years Elaine has been on the list of supply teachers, ready to be called at a moment’s notice, organised a dance club/pantomime with Julie Pearson, set up and ran the Cobbled Cow at the Rural Centre, continued with her Art group for Pre 5’s and their mums and ran line dancing and keep fit nights. She has been an enthusiastic Radio Ham for many years and with a group of fellow enthusiasts enters the yearly competition”Island on the Air “where over a period of 24 hours points are awarded to each team for the number of contacts they can make over the airwaves, the most points are given for reaching small remote islands all over the world. Last year they came 3rd in their class and are very quiet Ambassadors for Tiree, spreading the word, and they will continue this coming back to Tiree each year for the foreseeable future.

Excitingly for Elaine, but sadly for the Island, on 22nd September the Elephants End closed its doors for the last time. Changes to planning laws and the introduction of new legislation and regulations that have been introduced since the original conversion was done, mean that Elaine would need to spend over £100,000 to comply. Faced with this Elaine felt she had no option but to close the business and re think how she wanted to spend the next few years.

After all the years working 6 or 7 days per week a long holiday on a sunny beach reading and relaxing would appeal to most people. Elaine boarded a plane off the island on 23rd for a short break in Rome and Venice, then, starting the way she hopes to carry on, she’s off to Thailand to spend 3 weeks working as a tour guide for an Elephant Conservation Group – did I forget to mention she also has a soft spot for Elephants?

Next year she is hoping to get a contract to teach PE/ Early Years abroad. Her dream for the future is “to make a success of whatever else I do, I’m glad I am leaving here on a high”. Her biggest regret is “not finishing Elephant’s End – there’s still work to do and plans that I have for it, it hasn’t yet reached its full potential”

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