Arthur Lennox (Len) Scoullar: An appreciation

IT is no exaggeration to say that Arthur Lennox Scoullar was one of life’s highflyers, in both the metaphorical and literal sense.

Len, as he was known to friends, relatives and colleagues, had a love of flying, which led him to gain a pilot’s licence later in life, and he could often be spotted thousands of feet above the ground, seated behind the controls of a plane.

His passion for a challenge meant that at various times in his life he could also be found behind the steering wheel of a Glasgow taxi cab, in the uniform of the Scottish constabulary, and standing proudly against the bar of a popular drinking establishment in Bute.

Taxi driver, police officer, publican. Scoullar excelled in all these roles. But he will probably be most fondly remembered for his popular reign as Argyll and Bute Council’s Provost. The community-minded retired businessman served seven years in the role before his death at the age of 81.

Arthur Lennox Scoullar was born on June 23, 1939, and was raised in Glasgow by his father Arthur, who worked in sales after serving in the RAF, and mother Violet (née Rocks), who was a housewife.

On leaving school at sixteen he took up an apprenticeship with Barr and Stroud as a precision toolmaker, but on completion of his training he chose to join his home town’s police force.

After several years as a police officer he decided upon a career in the licensed trade. When he approached various breweries, however, he was politely told to come back and discuss opportunities with them when he had enough money to invest.

Never a man to be cowed by a challenge, he decided to use his experience as a police driver to help him achieve his ambition.

He obtained a taxi licence and purchased two taxis, once of which he drove himself, then he set about raising enough capital to secure a pub in a prime location.

For Scoullar that prime location turned out to be Bute, when the Black Bull Inn on Rothesay came up for sale in 1969. He ran the popular hostelry successfully for thirty years before retiring in 1999.

Under his stewardship it became one of the best-known pubs in the area, famed for its food and hospitality. The policeman-turned-publican also made sure that it became known as a place where revelries never got out of hand.

Generations of Bute families got to know Scoullar after he had served them their first pints. (Or, occasionally, when they received their first bar-room refusal from Len, after an ambitious attempt was made to imbibe alcoholic refreshments before being legally able to do so.)

Having a father who served in the RAF gave Scoullar a lifelong interest in aviation. It was an expensive hobby, though one which he was finally able to take up in earnest in 1987, gaining his pilot’s licence and taking to the skies out of Prestwick, as a member of the local flying club. He and his family enjoyed many thrilling trips, with a fly-over of Bute always the highlight of a jaunt in the clouds. They also took every opportunity to soar through the sky during family holidays in France, Spain, Portugal and Cyprus.

Scoullar was involved in a number of local groups and organisations, but never seriously considered a career in politics until 1999, when his retirement from the Black Bull coincided with a campaign to influence the proposals for a local water treatment works.

Local residents encouraged him to stand for election, and he did so. He was elected to what was then Argyll and Bute District Council in 1999, representing Ward 20, Bute South. The turnout in that ward was the second highest of all 36 electoral wards at 70.6 per cent (only just below the highest turnout of 70.7 per cent) and the result was a clear landslide victory.

Scoullar was appointed as Provost of Argyll and Bute in 2013 and held the role until his death. As befitted the position, he represented the area at a number of civic events locally and nationally, including the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and the Queen’s Baton Relay, which visited Argyll and Bute ahead of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014.

One of his proudest Provost engagements was as Chieftain of Bute Highland Games in 2015, which was his local Highland gathering.

Scoullar, who was married to Beverley when he died, had two children, Linda and Iain. Linda passed away in 2015, which was a time of great grief for him and the rest of his family.

He was described by those who knew him, both on Bute and by fellow Scottish Provosts and councillors, as a true gentleman who always strove to do the right thing.

Argyll and Bute Council leader Robin Currie said: “It’s difficult to imagine the council without Len. He was devoted to the area, and especially to his beloved Bute, where he had lived for more than fifty years”.

Currie said that Scoullar had always spoken up for the future of his local islands and supported the people and communities who made them their home.

“His genuine wish to help others made him a natural fit for the role of Provost, for which many will remember him most,” he added.

After a short illness Scoullar died peacefully at home. He is survived by his wife Beverley, brother Brian, son Iain, grandchildren Arron, Ryan and Zoe. He was predeceased by his daughter Linda.