n Ian Ruthven; born September 28, 1948, died August 1, 1996

THERE was a time when Edinburgh's restaurants in general were unimaginative and dull places, with the average menu and wine list offering little variety. To a very great extent it was Ian Ruthven, latterly the proprietor of the Waterfront Wine Bar in Leith, who single-handedly transformed this situation.

Born in Edinburgh, he attended Burghmuir School, leaving at the age of 15. Later he trained in art at Duncan of Jordanston College in Dundee before transferring to Edinburgh College of Art. He then settled for teaching at the Wester Hailes Education Centre. In 1973, he married Helen Gould, proposing to her three weeks after their first meeting. They had three sons, Aidan, Patrick, and Nicholas.

In the early 1970s, the once-prosperous port and town of Leith was a run-down place. Many of the old buildings had already been bulldozed to the ground or lay derelict. In those days Leith was certainly not considered a fashionable place to live, let alone dine.

Yet there were those who realised the potential, Ian among them. He had already successfully restored a church in the East Lothian village of Temple for a friend, and in doing so had acquired a certain knowledge and expertise.

At a time when the revival of Leith was just being contemplated, he and Helen paid #600 for a run-down former pub, tucked away facing a dockside. As a student he had rented it as a studio, paying #1 a week, but now he had other plans. In 1979, having completely renovated the building, he launched Skippers Restaurant, specialising in fish dishes.

Simple furniture, the boldly painted walls hung with prints, photographs and fishing memorabilia, Ian created the atmosphere of a French coastal bistro. His gourmet tastes and enthusiasm for good food and fine wine launched a revolution among the restaurateurs of Edinburgh, transforming Leith into a centre for eating out. Skippers was an immediate success, and continues to be so, 17 years later, with much of the original character retained by the current owner.

However, Ian's flair for inventiveness was ever restless and searching for new challenges. Next came the adjacent Waterfront Wine Bar which, more than anything else was to lead to the successful imagery and marketing of the district as ``Leith sur mer''. For the first time, during the summer months, diners in Edinburgh were able to eat out-of-doors. During the winter, log fires cast flickering patterns on the panel-work interiors.

In 1983, Ian and Helen bought a group of buildings at Seton Mill, East Lothian, and it was here that the family made their home. On the banks of the River Yyne at Haddington, he restored a row of derelict cottages transforming them into the Waterside Restaurant, another success story.

Ian Ruthven was a true renaissance Scot with a warm personality. He enjoyed the good things in life, but also delighted in sharing them with others.

He had a wide knowledge of Scottish art, literature, architecture, and music, and his early death robs both Edinburgh and Scotland of a man of remarkable taste and vision.

An appreciation by RODDY MARTINE