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Tributes paid to pioneer of Highland tourism, Jim Hogan, managing director of Caley Cruisers

By Staff Reporter

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Jim Hogan who founded Caley Cruisers with one small boat.
Jim Hogan who founded Caley Cruisers with one small boat.

The founder of a leading tourism business which has attracted thousands of visitors to Loch Ness and the Caledonian Canal has died as the company marks its 50th anniversary.

Jim Hogan, managing director of Caley Cruisers in Inverness, has been described by a friend and associate as a quiet and determined man who changed the face of Highland tourism – starting with one small boat.

Mr Hogan, who subsequently developed the biggest cruising fleet on the Caledonian Canal, died on April 19, aged 77, in the city’s Culduthel Care Home after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

He leaves a wife, Elizabeth, two sons and two daughters, plus five grandchildren.

Mr and Mrs Hogan launched the first holiday hire cruiser on the Caledonian Canal – a modified Norwegian cruiser, Myra – in the spring of 1970.

Over the years, the family-run company has attracted visitors from around the world as well as TV crews and celebrities including Timothy West and Prunella Scales, who featured in Channel 4’s Great Canal Journeys, Barbara Dickson, Billy Connolly and The Police.

Daughter Audrey Hogan paid tribute to her father.

Jim and Elizabeth Hogan, of Caley Cruisers (poss late 1970s).
Jim and Elizabeth Hogan, of Caley Cruisers (poss late 1970s).

“He was a real character in his day and a true entrepreneur who helped to pioneer the tourism in the Highlands during the ‘70s,” she said.

“The way he built up Caley Cruisers was a remarkable achievement and has resulted in thousands of families being able to enjoy the spectacular scenery and fascinating engineering achievement that is Loch Ness and the Caledonian Canal.

“He will be sadly missed by his family and many friends, but we are extremely proud that his legacy will carry on.

“The company is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and we hope to be able to celebrate many more in the years to come.

“It is an extremely challenging time for tourism businesses everywhere just now, particularly in the rural economy of the Highlands, but we will see this period through.

“The support of our wonderful customers has been incredible, many of whom came on holiday with us when they were children in the early days of the company. They have since grown up and now bring their own children to share an experience which has stayed with them through their life.”

Alan Scott, a former press officer for the Highlands and Islands Development Board (HIDB), often worked with Mr Hogan, whom he described as “a man ahead of his time” and whose innovative ideas changed Highland tourism.

“At its peak, the company operated 55 boats and achieved an occupancy rate of over 30 weeks – a rate unheard of in the Highland tourism industry at that time,” Mr Scott recalled.

“As he began to develop the business, while still running a successful two-bay garage in Brodie, Jim approached the HIDB for help.

“Even though developing tourism was a top priority for the board, especially in extending the season, it could not accept that investment in cruising the Caledonian Canal would pay off.

“But Jim Hogan was not a man to give up. Following the appointment of Sir Andrew Gilchrist as chairman, Jim finally convinced the agency that what he proposed could be achieved. It was his quiet but convincing personality that brought it about.

“A note on an HIDB file read: ‘Do not underestimate this man!’.”

The business went from strength to strength and subsequently established a marina above Muirtown Locks. It also set up a chandlery and fitted out its own boats from imported hulls.

It later entered a joint venture with Inverness Harbour Trust to build and operate Inverness Marina in the expanding port area.

A private funeral was held at Kilvean Cemetery on Monday.

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