TRIBUTES have been paid to hotelier and businessman Leslie Griffin who died at the weekend.
Leslie, 71, passed away at the Causeway Hospital after an illness.
Leslie and his wife Sandra bought the site for what was to become the Magherabuoy House Hotel in Portrush in 1985, and after an extensive building scheme, began trading the former restaurant and stately home as a hotel a few years later.
Previous to that the couple, originally from Co. Tyrone, had owned and operated the Lough Erne Hotel in Kesh and the Silverbirch Hotel in Omagh. The Magherabuoy Hotel development added to the family portfolio and was the most ambitious scheme in terms of both scale and scope.
Colleague and friend Trevor Clarke says Leslie made a big decision in coming to Portrush.
“Leslie and Sandra took on the Magherabuoy project at a time when few would have had the courage or foresight to build and open a new Hotel anywhere in Northern Ireland,” he said.
“This was 1985, they already were involved in two other successful hotels, and you might say that should have been enough, their hands were full. But in an approach that was typical of Leslie, there was a vision, drive and determination to create something special in Portrush. Once sold on an idea, nothing would stop Leslie achieving his goal.
“And as it turned out, Magherabuoy became more than a successful hotel – it was to become home to one of Northern Ireland’s top nightclubs.
“Burberries opened shortly after the hotel started trading, and Leslie took a particular pride in its success. Hundreds of people travelled to the club from all over the country every Saturday night for more than twenty years.
“Leslie spent much of this time personally overseeing this part of the business; essentially he enjoyed his own life, and he enjoyed seeing other people enjoying theirs. He was a people person through and through.
“Leslie remained dedicated to the hotel for the long term, even during the property boom a few years ago when it would have been easy to sell up and leave the business altogether.
“Instead, he committed to the extension and refurbishment of the hotel in 2006, securing the long-term future of the business. Whilst taking more of a back seat in the business in recent years, Leslie continued to have time for and got to know the hotel staff, and must have seen hundreds of people work in the hotel over a period in excess of 25 years.
“He remained the focal point for many of the hotel’s guests and customers; he was always the host and made sure everyone that came into the hotel was made feel welcome.
“He had a very understated manner and was not one for flaunting his profile, but could also be direct and unswerving in his approach to business. He would be there when you needed him and took care of things in his own way.”
Trevor added: “Leslie had a great sense of humour and was generous to a fault. He had a great interest in sports, particularly rugby and football, and contributed to many teams, clubs and individuals over the years.
“He will be sadly missed, not least by his beloved wife Sandra, daughters Nicola and Sarah and their families, but by his other ’big family’ - those of us at the Magherabuoy who had the privilege of calling Leslie our colleague or employer and always our friend”.
Leslie’s funeral service will be held in St. Patrick’s Church of Ireland, Coleraine this Wednesday at 11am. Interment will take place afterwards at the Church of Ireland in Dromore, Co. Tyrone, for interment there.