John Paddy Reilly - an appreciation

JOHN PADDY REILLY Club and casino owner

Born: 17 August, 1924, in Newcraighall. Died: 8 August, 2006, in Edinburgh, aged 81.

PADDY started his working life as a stable boy after leaving St John's, Portobello, aged 14. Family say it might have been 13; he showed scant aptitude for school.

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The stables, far removed from Newmarket and thoroughbreds, were located in the heart of Edinburgh, the home for the workaday horses harnessed to carts, then a familiar sight in the capital.

He was "hands on," helping horses cope with their loads up city centre gradients, Leith Street and the Old Town proving formidable for the youngster, still in his schoolboy shorts.

At 16 he got his first "proper" job, again where horses were involved. There were similarities with Sean Connery's well-documented employment with St Cuthbert's Co-op. Working for the same firm, he was a milk roundsman.

His hankering for a job with much better prospects saw him cheat on his age to get into the RAF and he was a sergeant at the end of his seven-year term as a serviceman.

On demob he sold insurance door-to-door, supplementing his meagre salary by driving a cab in the evenings. He was in his late 20s when he bought his own cab and he was running two before he sold them for what he was sure would be a safer bet - he opened a casino in Hamilton Place, Stockbridge.

Acquiring a taste for gambling, he formed what was to prove a profitable partnership with the entrepreneurial Peter Williamson.

They created the Grafton Club, a casino, in Tollcross (the tables gave way to poll dancers). The partners split when Paddy opened Walkers, a night spot that survived eight years in Shandwick Place, but resumed their association to launch the International Club, in Princes Street, rented from the Leith-based property owner Jimmy Roccio.

Paddy on his own opened the Teenage Club in South Bridge. Then, in his biggest venture, converted the meat market in East Fountainbridge into a night club, the Americana, and five years later launched Annebelle's in neighbouring Semple Street.

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Shortly before retiring, Paddy, on what had been ageing tenements, developed four mews-type houses at Grange Court, Causewayside.

Paddy loved a laugh, a drink and Hibernian FC. Preoccupied with visits to the taxman, he constantly mingled with many of Edinburgh's highest-profile businessmen, some of who operated only just within the law.

He wasn't the brightest with figures but, his friends said, he could at least rattle off his Air Force service number.

Predeceased by his wife, he is survived by his daughter and son.