Back to where it all began for Andy Lane

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He is now living a pastoral existence on windswept Bodmin Moor – far from the shores of Loch Fyne.

But Andy Lane left his herd of rare Dexter cattle back in Cornwall to return to where it all began in 1978 for he and his business partner Johnny Noble.

A marine biologist and fish farmer, Andy Lane joined forces with Cairndow landowner Johnny Noble to start the Loch Fyne oyster farm. It was a gamble – but one that paid off, with the business now turning over millions each year.

He left the business ‘at least 10 years ago’, but was a very interested visitor at last week’s ‘Fyne at 40’ celebrations – more on pages 16 and 17 – to mark the company’s four decades in business.

‘Looking back, I feel quite astonished really,’ he told the Advertiser.

‘I mean, away back we had a wooden hut, but before that there was a fish box and an umbrella. We were growing shellfish, cooking prawns and smoking a bit of fish.

‘The restaurant as we see it today was an old farm steading – well, it was a midden, really. But we slowly evolved within it.

‘It was open to the slates and the wind used to go straight up the length of the oyster bar. We had a hessian sack to keep down the draught, and it used to stand out at about 45 degrees a lot of the time. It was very primitive for many years, because we were skint.

‘People sat in their overcoats, but they liked the style. All of a sudden they could get local shellfish, and it just developed from there.’

He continued: ‘Since my time the whole place has had a re-make and it is really, really nice.

Andy Lane

‘It’s been driven by the volume of people wanting to dine here. I mean, you couldn’t keep up that slightly rustic look. It’s a cracking place now. Just superb.’

Johnny Noble sadly died in 2002, aged just 66.

‘He was an inspiring, lovely man, said Mr Lane. ‘No matter what disaster befell us; no matter what cock-up happened, he was ever-optimistic and just kept us going.

‘We would have our business meetings in the billiard room at [Johnny’s home] Ardkinglas House, and there would be a bottle of something. That just keeps the morale going.

‘He was a great man, and wonderful entertainment.’

The stories of Johnny Noble are legion, and most are true.

Andy Lane recalled: ‘In the days of the Oyster Bar in our old draughty building, everyone had to muck in. Johnny would go round being the wine waiter for a while. Until, that is, someone would choose an inappropriate wine. At that point he’d start a sort of genial argument with them. In the end he’d sit down with them and you’d never see him again for the rest of the evening.

Andy Lane and Johnny Noble pictured in the early years

‘I don’t think we realised just how important he was for the business until he was gone.’

Now living a quieter life in Cornwall with his Dexters, Mr Lane concluded: ‘My wife and I changed tack in life, really, and it keeps us busy. And we’ve got our two boys, so we’re quite occupied.’