Chirpy Charlie is the city's longest-serving doorman

CHARLIE Rodger, the Capital's longest serving doorman, who has welcomed guests to the Caledonian Hotel for nearly three decades, speaks to John Gibson.

NOTHING escapes Charlie Rodger at the West End. He is the eyes and ears at the capital's hub. Consider yourself somebody if the Caledonian's doorman tips his topper at you.

The former fishmonger's cheery all-weather smile has been welcoming the hotel's guests since 1983. When a hip replacement laid him up for a few months, he had get-well-soon cards from general manager Willy Blattner, assuring him his job would remain open for him.

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"That was three years ago, I'm 74 on my next birthday, and I'd seriously considered retiring," recalls Charlie, "but I like being around people and I'd become too accustomed to the West End's hustle and bustle. I suppose I walk aboot here like I own the place"

Back on the job Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, he is virtually part of the architecture there, in his clawhammer ("as it was known in Poirot's day") coat and the inevitable top hat.

Allowing me an inspection of his hefty headwear, he explained: "This was made by Christy's of London, established 1773, and it cost 300, more than the rest of my uniform."

Charlie was born in Jewel Cottages, near Niddrie. From school he worked in his fishmonger mother's shop on Musselburgh's High Street.

Fish became his livelihood. He opened his own shop in Portobello's Brighton Place for ten years prior to dedicating the rest of his working life to duty on the Caley's door.

Top-hatted, he talks close as he can to "proper", but away from the door he lapses naturally into what might be termed broad Musselburgh. He's of that stock.

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"My grandfather was in charge of the Musselburgh and Fisherrow Co-operative Society's 43 horses and he was 93 when he passed on."

Charlie's big passion, apart from his southsider wife who bore him two sons, is golf - or, as he puts it, "gowf". He is thirty years a member at Monktonhall.

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Forever modest, he says: "I reckon ah'm no a bad gowfer. I used to be six feet two. Probably six feet now. You shrink with age." Burdened with that hat might have a bearing.

Spick and span and punctual, Charlie has succumbed to one adornment on his uniform, on each lapel the trademark crossed rifles emblem of the US army's 7th Cavalry. "We had a lot of American Army soldiers staying in the hotel and they sort of took a shine to my accent. Their colonel promised he'd send their emblem to me and sure enough he did. Smart, aren't they?"

Chirpy Charlie treasures them, though not nearly as much his gowfing gear. "I've got four sets of clubs and 30 putters. Call me a putters freak."

Anything you say, Charlie.

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