Eddie Tobin

Born: July 9, 1946; Died: April 29, 2024

IT is difficult to capture in words the affection held towards Eddie Tobin, who has died aged 77, by those who knew and worked alongside him over his long and varied career associated with Scotland’s night-time economy.

The many tributes which greeted news of his death this week was a measure of the impact he had on the sector he dedicated his life to and, more importantly, the countless friends he made along the way.

At this juncture, it is perhaps worth declaring a personal interest. In a former role as editor of Scottish Licensed Trade News, we would meet to gather his views for his regular column. His commentary on the issues of the day always made for compelling reading, but what I enjoyed even more were his tales from an illustrious career that began as manager for some of Glasgow’s most famous rock acts.

Those who knew Mr Tobin, who grew up in Penilee in the south-west of Glasgow, will have heard this all before, but the highlights are worth re-telling. He made his name managing The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Nazareth, Midge Ure and Billy Connolly, and was part of the management team of famous Glasgow music venue The Apollo. He would also have a spell as commercial manager for players of Rangers and Celtic, before the great second act of his career in the nightclub industry began.

Friends and colleagues who shared his fondness for rock ‘n’ roll were held captivated by his tales of life on the road, of which he seemed to have an endless supply. “He was very much a raconteur,” his son Chris told The Herald. “He always had a story for every situation, some of them hilarious. I’m sure there are some that I was deliberately not told! But if you ask anyone, they will say that the stories he had from his life were fantastic.

“We were always trying to get him to write an autobiography, actually, because it would have been a great read, but he never got round to it, sadly.”

After music, Mr Tobin went on to have a hugely successful career in the Scottish licensed trade, working for major names such as Stakis Group, Carnegie Leisure Group, and Scottish & Newcastle, and became a tireless advocate for raising standards in the late-night industry – for the benefit of businesses and their customers.

His son Chris said he decided to join the industry himself because of the way his father spoke about it. “He loved it, he absolutely loved it, being part of things,” he said. “And I think he quite enjoyed people listening to what he had to say about things as well! He was never too important to not speak to anybody who wanted advice or counsel. He was very modest in that sense.”

Among Eddie’s closest confidants in the licensed trade was Donald MacLeod, the Glasgow-based nightclub owner and live music promoter. He said Mr Tobin had taken him under his wing when he joined the industry and would go on to be a hugely influential figure in his career.

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From a broader industry perspective, Mr MacLeod said the part played by Mr Tobin in lifting the nightclub industry out the “dark days” of gang culture in Glasgow, which involved the development of closer relationships between the licensed trade and the police, cannot be overstated.

He said Mr Tobin was a key figure in the creation of the Glasgow Licensing Forum which brought together all stakeholders in the city – operators, local councillors, health and safety officers and the police – and succeeded in bringing the trade closer to the authorities. He is also credited with driving up standards in the security industry and had been a major supporter of the introduction of a licensing regime for door stewards.

“He was instrumental in putting Glasgow at the top of the club and venue culture, way back in its heyday,” Mr MacLeod said. “He was a driving force behind it. There is not enough said about his actual involvement in shaping the duty of care for the public, and improving the standards of delivery the nightclubs were doing. He really was a driving force behind that.”

He added: “Glasgow, as much as it was bouncing back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, hard a dark underbelly. Eddie quietly, diligently, forcefully in a way, worked tirelessly to improve these standards.”

Not that all of Mr Tobin career was plain sailing. In 2006, by which time he was running his own cleaning company, he was shot twice in his right leg when he opened the door at his home on the south side of Glasgow.

But remarkably he did not let the episode get him down. He went on to enjoy further success with his security business and continued to be a strong advocate for the late-night economy, which Mr MacLeod said was testament to the strength of his character.

Mr Tobin’s death is being keenly felt this week by Billy Rankin, former guitarist with Nazareth who has known Eddie since he began making his way on the Glasgow music scene in his teens. He said Mr Tobin quickly became a “pal for life” and had looked after him at a difficult stage in his life, after his solo career began to falter.

“We never really spent two or three months without seeing each other,” the musician said. “When I hit the big time with my solo career, he came through to my house and said, ‘I always knew this would happen to you’. He was always caring. Then, when the s**t hit the fan with the solo stuff, he brought me into the circuit again just to basically make money and do some more gigs before I rejoined Nazareth. So, he’s been a pal all my life. This is a really sore one, it really is hard.”

Mr MacLeod said: “I am so glad he was part of my life. He was instrumental in shaping me and instilling me a sense of duty and care, a belief that there is more to nightclubs and the licensed trade, that it is an industry worth supporting and putting time and effort into.

“He was just a great mediator, and he did it with a glint in his eye and a good laugh.”

Eddie Tobin is survived by wife Elspeth, son Chris, and daughter Claire.