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Joe Caldwell

Hotelier and host to the stars;

Born: January 5, 1930; Died: December 1, 2012.

Joe Caldwell, who has died aged 82, was a kenspekle figure in his native Ayrshire where he was "mine host" at the Eglinton Arms Hotel in Irvine for almost 50 years.

He was more than a publican or hotelier for his interest in people and music meant his hotel became a magnet for musicians, singers and entertainers, as varied as Billy Connolly, Anne Lorne Gillies and Acker Bilk. He even managed to persuade the flamboyant American pianist Liberace to drop in for a late-night drink when in the area, a visit that caused problems for the local police who were unaccustomed to pink Cadillacs double-parking in Irvine's High Street.

In what was the golden age of the Scottish pub, the Eglinton Arms was at the heart of the Irvine community and, within an industry then full of characters, Mr Caldwell was much respected and liked by his licensed trade peers across Scotland.

Among his earliest initiatives on arriving in Irvine in 1960 was the Eglinton Burns Club which staged the town's first mixed Burns Supper. Such a break from tradition may have raised eyebrows but it is a tribute to Mr Caldwell's vision and high standards that the Eglinton Burns Club shortly celebrates its 53rd anniversary.

In the 1960s Irvine grew and Mr Caldwell was one of the innovators behind an ambitious expansion of the historical Marymass Fair by introducing a 10-day Folk Festival. Local sceptics feared the worst but the festival was an instant success with often three or four packed concerts running simultaneously in different venues each night. Folk legends including Matt McGinn, Alex Campbell and Josh McCrae were joined by then youngsters such as Gerry Rafferty, Barbara Dickson, Archie Fisher, The McCalmans and Aly Bain.

Mr Caldwell's musical tastes were catholic and he helped Bert Whyte, the then town clerk, found the Irvine Music Club which still meets regularly and attracts classical musicians and singers from the Scottish Conservatoire and beyond.

But Mr Caldwell's musical interest and network soon discovered more constructive opportunities when he supported his wife, Ann, in fundraising for Action Medical Research. They were successful in raising tens of thousands of pounds across Scotland for their adopted charity. When Mr Caldwell asked anyone to speak or perform at Action events, there were few who refused, for people were happy to appear free for someone who asked little but constantly gave something back.

He became involved in the Irvine Burns Club, was its president in 1979 and continued afterwards as a director. In 2001 he was made an honorary member and in his acceptance letter, with typical modesty, admitted to being absolutely flabbergasted but completely delighted.

Almost single-handedly, he revived the Irvine Skinners, eventually becoming its deacon, and then deacon convener of the Irvine Incorporated Trades. Not content with local involvement, he joined the Trades House of Glasgow, became beacon of the Incorporation of Skinners and Glovers and served on its master court for more than 20 years.

His interest in football is well-documented, less so his interest in golf and rugby but, of all his leisure pursuits, his love of sailing was probably paramount.

He is survived by his wife, Ann, two daughters, Helen and Leigh, and two grand-daughters, Shona and Elly. To paraphrase Robert Burns, he was "the social, friendly honest man who filled great nature's plan" and he did it with a big grin, a twinkle in his eye, a laugh in his voice and a welcoming hand of friendship.

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