Tony is semi-retired, but still runs exclusive speciality tours of Loch Ness through InvernessTours.com, the business he built over the last six years. He also does the occasional consultancy work. Until June 2012 he chaired the Drumnadrochit Chamber of Commerce and Tourist Association and was a director of Destination Loch Ness, the region's destination management organisation. His self-published, 340 page, Loch Ness book, Loch Ness Understood was published early December 2010. It is now also available on Kindle, nook, in the iStore and throughout the world on Amazon.
One of the foremost authorities on the mystery at Loch Ness. He conceived designed, created and co-founded the Official Loch Ness Monster Exhibition Centre; was administrative coordinator of Operation Deepscan during 1986/7; was Bursar of Fort Augustus Abbey on Loch Ness where he designed and wrote the highly acclaimed Fort Augustus Abbey Heritage Centre and also the Loch Ness Story Diorama; invented the award-winning board game, Nessie Hunt; scripted the Polygram video Loch Ness Monster Story; wrote Mysterious Monsters of Loch Ness and Loch Ness, The Monster, the latter being reprinted on eight occasions. He has had trouble finding a publisher for Loch Ness Understood so has taken the self-publishing and eBook route. Although born at Brocket Hall in Hertfordshire and brought up in England, his mother was from Scotland and both his parents had a love of the Highlands. He has lived overlooking Loch Ness for more than half his life. Recently he discovered that he is related to Robert the Bruce through, amazingly, the English side of his family.
His mixed heritage has resulted in him being a rather strange combination of Tottenham Hotspur and Scotland supporter. Neither team seem to ever win anything! Although, perhaps, this year? As this demonstrates, he is also a great optimist!
Tony has a background in sales and industry holding down management posts with Loyds Retailers, Top Rank, Granada, Wella and Lenthéric Morny (BAC). These posts were in Manchester and the south of England. He moved to Drumnadrochit in 1978 to follow up several years' interest in Loch Ness. In 1980 it was his idea to set up the Loch Ness Exhibition with a local hotelier who stole his intellectual property. His trust in the late owner of the Centre cost him extremely dearly.
In the mid eighties, while still MD at the Loch Ness Centre which he had built into the most successful tourist attraction in the Highlands, he produced his Loch Ness game, Nessie Hunt which had been in the planning since 1975.
In 1990, after yet another disagreement with the owner of the Loch Ness Centre who had been deliberately making his life difficult, he left to concentrate on a manufacturing company for which he had been consulting.
Genesis Creations Ltd of Fife was a great success initially, growing to nearly fifty employees making fantasy figurines, but the recession in the early nineties caused many of its customers to go bankrupt. The resulting uncollectible debts caused Genesis to fold and almost cost the loss of his home. Bankruptcy was avoided by a whisker.
Returning to his knowledge of Loch Ness, he had to quickly establish a new business with positive cashflow. He chose to obtain a Public Service Vehicle driving and operating licence and ran very specialised half-day Loch Ness tours for small groups. Although extremely successful he still had a desire to return to visitor centre design and management.
In 1993 the opportunity arose with a contract to come up with a theme for the Perthshire Visitor Centre just north of Perth. With Dunkeld and Birnam being nearby he chose to take the much maligned Scottish king, Macbeth, and produce a presentation which contrasted the Shakespearean character with the real person who was, in fact, one of Scotland's better monarchs.
Also in 1993 he was commissioned to come up with a rescue package for Fort Augustus Abbey whose boarding school had recently closed owing to falling numbers. He was then appointed to manage the creation of the visitor centre he had designed and the doors opened in May 1994.
The Benedictine monks were so pleased with the results that they offered him the role of Bursar (a sort of monastic financial director), which was the first time this position had been held by a lay person in any Scottish monastery. The business grew extremely rapidly but the demands of the Victorian buildings meant that the profits were all swallowed in repairs and maintenance.
When Abbot Mark Dilworth retired, a monk called Francis Davidson, who had always taken a hostile stance towards the venture, was appointed to take control of the Abbey and, within five months of his appointment in March 1998, he shut the entire place. He refused to allow any attempts to keep it open and disbursed all of the monks to other monasteries. The abbey is now being converted into luxury apartments. For a long time it was in a shocking state of repair, but finally appears to be taking shape.
The demise of the abbey, as well as a personal blow, was also a serious financial blow to Tony who had had to give up all of his business interests when he took on the Bursar role. Starting from scratch in 1998 he developed an Internet and Marketing Consultancy business which he ran until June 2013.
Early in 2002 his wife, Wendy, joined him in this venture after retiring from a career in local government. In addition he set up an on line shop called The Scottish & Celtic Mall which later became part of Chanonry Point Ltd. where Tony joined forces with Keith and Carola Martin-Smith of EZcommerce providing free Internet shops in the early noughties.
His main business today is the odd specialist guiding and speaking on Scotland's history, natural history and Loch Ness. This has become very successful and today he guides not just tourists, but groups of university students too.
His tour business was the first in Scotland to be awarded five stars by the Scottish Tourist Board. Sadly they have reduced the standard for five stars today in order to allow minibuses to gain it. This dropping of standards has recently resulted in the ludicrous situation of a twelve hour minibus trips from Edinburgh being awarded five stars thus causing the classification to be devalued to a point where it is absolutely useless. His tour was also voted "Best Tourist Attraction 2004" beating multi-million pound attractions such as Urquhart Castle.
At the end of 2006 he sold the coach tour business to another operator and was concentrating on exclusive tours or guiding educational groups. Unfortunately, in 2007 he suffered a stroke which prevented him from guide/driving for twelve months, although he could still join larger groups. Fully recovered, he went on to build Inverness Tours into the most highly rated exclusive tour on Trip Advisor in Scotland. He has always been a great believer in delivering world class quality in any enterprise he undertakes.
Owing to the enforced leisure time in 2008, he decided to put more time and effort into finishing his Loch Ness book. It can be purchased on his Loch Ness, Nessie and Me as a signed limited edition which has been produced slightly oversized to make it unique. It has over 200 illustrations and more than 300 pages. Although self published through Amazon and Lulu, he is still seeking a volume publisher to run with it. The first comprehensive new Loch Ness book of this millennium and the first written about the loch and its phenomenon by a Loch Ness resident.
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