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Obituary: John Quinn made Garlogie Inn a favourite destination

John Quinn outside the Garlogie Inn.
John Quinn outside the Garlogie Inn.

John Quinn, who together with his wife Thelma, built one of the north-east’s most successful restaurants, has died aged 86.

When they bought the Garlogie in 1986 it was a “spit and sawdust” pub which did not even have ladies’ toilets.

They renovated it at breakneck speed and introduced food when a customer asked them to provide a funeral tea.

Legacy

Today, John’s legacy is a hugely popular restaurant employing 39 people serving food all day.

The roots of the Garlogie’s success were, however, in a working men’s club in Middlesborough which John and Thelma risked all to take on.

John had a good job at an ICI factory and Thelma worked in a John Collier clothing plant.

Successful partnership: Thelma and John Quinn.

Life was good. The couple had a modern home on the edge of the city with views of the countryside.

Thelma, who as a supervisor seamstress, also worked part time in a men’s club and heard that stewards jobs had become available at a working men’s club in the city centre.

Basic

Their son, Nick, said: “It was opposite the railway station and it was rough. Ladies were only allowed in on a Sunday night.

“The offer was only beer and snooker. They applied and got the job and soon realised that customers would go home for something to eat then return.

“This is when my mother had the idea of serving pies and peas. Before long they were selling 500 pies and peas on a Saturday alone and this launched their catering career.”

Beginnings

John was born in Southbank, Middlesborough, to James and Edith Quinn. His father had moved south from Coatbridge in 1929 to work in the steel industry.

He was educated at St Peter’s Catholic School between 1946 and 1952 and after National Service in the army catering corps began work at ICI in Middlesborough.

John and Thelma were married in Middlesborough in 1959.

Gamble

After 20 years at ICI, John and Thelma made the leap into the unknown by becoming stewards of the working men’s club.

Their gamble paid off and in 1975, John’s uncle offered them the chance to take on a beautiful country pub, the Fox and Hounds, at Bullamoor, near Northallerton.

It was a traditional place with waiting staff for formal service and the couple got the bug for running their own business.

Move north

In 1981, John and Thelma took over the lease of then then Murtle Mill in Bieldside, which was owned by John’s uncle.

When the oil slump came in 1986 he was forced to sell and John and Thelma began looking for a place to buy.

They heard a pub owned by Dunecht Estates was available to buy or lease and went to take a look.

Potential

It was closed and the licence had lapsed, it looked run down and there was no car park.

Nick said: “My parents sat in their car on the verge for an hour and soon realised how busy the road was. They put in an offer and bought it for £61,000.

“A field came with the property which they turned into a car park. The place did well as a bar from Thursday to Saturday and by chance, one of the locals passed and my mother was asked to put on a funeral tea.

Expansion

“She put on a brilliant spread and word soon spread. They began serving meals to six tables and before long had extended that to room for 60 people.

“Now, with the conservatory extension, there is space for 85 people and we can serve 200 meals on a Sunday.”

John retired 10 years ago but because he lived next door, he remained a familiar sight at the Garlogie.

Tribute

Nick, who runs the business with his brother Paul, said: “The Garlogie really was his stage. This was where he was most at home and confident and the Garlogie will continue to offer the warmest of John welcomes for many years to come.”

You can read the family’s announcement here.

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