“We all strive to be Harry”: The story of The Glynhill

Where we began

Charalambous Nikolaou was born in July 1920 in the village of the Katodrys village in Southern Cyprus. This Cypriot boy who later became a naturalised Scot, would come to be known as Harry Nicholas.

Harry, the founder, and patriarch of The Glynhill and its family.

In true Cypriot manner, all elders must be respected, and as the youngest of five, Harry was always respectful of all those around him, as they were all older. This was an ethos he carried with him for the rest of his life. Respect.

After attending senior school in the neighbouring village, with a daily five-mile round trek across the village hills, Harry, at 16, decided it was time to get a job. But working in the village would not be enough. Harry had his eyes and heart set on much further afield, and somewhere to earn enough to send some home.

Next step London

With two roads ahead of him, being either New York to join his father, or London where his brother Michael held the role of Station Head Waiter at the world renowned Claridge’s Hotel, he chose the cheaper of two routes. London. So, he joined Michael, and began to train in what would inevitably be his destiny, as a hotelier.

When the Second World War broke out, Harry, still a young man in the last of his teen years, worked in the aircraft factories making parts for fighter ships. Harry was fascinated by his work, and often regaled his friends about the day’s work, though it seemed to be of more excitement and interest to him, than to his friends.

And on to Scotland

In 1942, 22-year-old Harry travelled to Glasgow where he took on the role of manager at the Acropolis Restaurant, whose proprietors were fellow villagers Joseph Ananeas, Charles Pattichis and Reo Stakis, who would later also be a well-known hotelier.

After success at The Acropolis, Harry moved on to be manager and partner of the legendary Ivy Restaurant, the absolute place to be in the 50s and early 60s. The name evoked tremors of excitement at the time, knowing that not only was an experience in The Ivy one to be savoured and bragged about, but that you never knew what celebrity or footballer you might chance by. Many Glaswegians of a certain age still regale the tales of The Ivy, and of Harry, star of the show, yet humble in his hospitality.

With desires set in him from a young age, and the memories of his time in Claridge’s, Harry looked for more. The Ivy was his mark. But it was time for a new one and he set out to find his raison d’etre.

The House

Founded in 1901, the House became the home and office of Babcock, an internationally born institution with roots firmly set in our local Renfrewshire. After close to 60 years, the Babcock legacy moved on. The grand Victorian building born on the cusp of the Edwardian age was available. Inside the doors the Victorian intention is clear, with cornice and coving of Her Majesty’s time. But when you enter from outside you cannot miss the Edwardian finishes of the windows. A truly striking architectural glory on the edge of two eras. Harry was in love.

Nonetheless, this was not enough. It was not to be. The house was successfully purchased by the Mormons of Renfrew and ran as a church under their faith. Quite upsetting indeed for Harry.

Towards the mid-1960s, the church decided it was time to move on. Harry hadn’t forgotten about his love for the house. A new bid! And a successful one indeed! The house was Harry’s.

The Birth of The Glynhill

After a successful purchase, Harry put everything in motion. It would be another four years before full fruition in April 1970 with the opening of The Glynhill. Patience was rewarded as all good things come to those who wait.

The hotel had 22 rooms, beautiful and ornate. Food was a focus, and an impressive part of the business, after all, Harry came from the best of the best and expected no less. A function room was also added and the place to have your celebration if you were from this part of Scotland.

Harry helmed the hotel from this point for 27 years. Brought in the team who became family, not just employees. There are still members of the hotel team who were hired and worked for Harry. A testament not only to the man himself, but his sons and daughter who have been the epitome of carrying on a legacy. The hotel’s current team include the Executive Head Housekeeper, in her position for more than 30 years, a position which her mother carried out when she was just a lass. These are the stories of The Glynhill, the stories which Harry started and gave life to.

During his time, Harry had his spot on the back wall facing the front door. His seat was here with his dog Muffin, at his side. He would sit here like a kind King on his throne, keeping a watchful eye and a welcoming smile for the guests. Many long-term guests still comment on being welcomed by Harry, and Muffin, when they arrived.

And it’s not just the guests, of the family at The Glynhill, who remember him so fondly. The locals do too. Murray, who ran the post office on the opposite side of the street, supplied the newspapers back in the day.  Murray, who is kindly in the golden years, and his darling wife still visit the hotel for an evening drink. They recount the stories of Harry who without fail would come into the shop on a Friday afternoon, at 4pm and no later, to settle the hotel’s paper bill. A man of integrity, as well as kindness. That was Harry.

In 1997, we lost Harry, in body, but never in soul.

The legacy continues, with actual family and Glynhill family. A hotel, a place to get married, a place to eat, a place to enjoy, a place to discover yourself, for 53 years and counting.

We welcome all to The Glynhill, because we all strive to be Harry.