Edinburgh University Settlement: When not if; the slow demise of a much loved old friend…

Posted on November 25, 2010 by | 35 Comments

This is a guest post by Chris Richardson.

A little under a month ago Edinburgh University Settlement was declared bankrupt and I started to consider how I would write this piece. Let me put my cards on the table up front, I was asked to write this because I was once uniquely positioned to witness the activities of Edinburgh University Settlement (EUS) in its steadily accelerating decline to oblivion. To say that the years I spent involved with EUS were amicable (for either me or some of the management of EUS) would be untruthful – I have over the years been called many things, but ‘trouble causer’ is one that I actually don’t mind – sometimes things just need a little shaking up!

Having said that, the concept behind EUS was courageous and worthy, the projects were pioneering and met the needs of some of the more vulnerable and often forgotten members of our society, and the majority of the staff employed by EUS were conscientious and always put their clients’ needs first. I want to pass my condolences to those staff and clients who lost so much at the end of October 2010; you are the real victims of this debacle. No one I know (even the most avid critic of EUS) wanted the charity to fail, indeed, their objections were always founded on the belief that if the EUS ship did not change course it was going to hit the rocks very hard, but we are jumping the gun a little. In short, EUS as a charity was valuable and will be much missed and none of what follows should be taken as a criticism of the concept, the projects or the majority of the staff.

So what went wrong?

I’ve not bothered with the history of EUS. As someone far more eloquent than myself put it, “history is just one damn thing after another” and in this case would be a dated list of new projects interspersed with property deals and arguments. Quite a good synopsis of the recent history of EUS can be read in Tychy’s post ‘Too Big to Fail?’ There is also an alternative and somewhat rose tinted view by Ericka Duffy (an ex-employee of EUS) on the Guardian Edinburgh website. The history is not as interesting as the ethos that existed within the organisation, and in my view, it’s this ethos that crashed EUS, not a list of disassociated events. More importantly, it’s the story of this ethos that should serve as a warning to other charities and other trustees on how not to run a charity!

Let’s be clear, in my view (and probably that of OSCR), trustees are where the buck stops. They set the priorities for any organisation, charitable or otherwise. They set the long term strategy and they hire the key management staff. They then work with the management staff to create a business plan (in line with that long term strategy) and then leave the staff to advance that plan with regular updates on progress. It’s not rocket science! Unfortunately as Mr Cartwright of PWC is no doubt discovering, this wasn’t the model that EUS appeared to follow.

Many years ago they employed a Director, Nick Flavin. Now Ericka Duffy in her piece has described Nick Flavin as a “flamboyant and kind-hearted” man, and whilst I would not agree completely with that description, I recognise that others did see him in that light and indeed some members of staff could even be said to have idolised him. Nick Flavin is a very articulate and engaging character; he speaks with passion and will go out of his way to meet your needs, even when they directly conflict with the needs of others whose needs he has also agreed to meet.

I am fairly sure that when Nick Flavin began his directorship of EUS, that agreed model of Trustee responsibility was in place, however, over the “28 odd” years that he remained in post, there was a seismic shift in responsibility. The board of trustees (or Executive Committee as EUS called it) ceased to be the prime movers in policy and strategy and became no more than a rubber stamp for the ideas and pet projects of the Director. Times have been hard for a while in the sector and attracting volunteer board members has been difficult for many years as I am sure many others involved in charitable/voluntary organisations will agree.

As EUS had no specific trustee recruitment policy that I could see, the responsibility fell on the Director, who obviously recruited friends and associates, who in turn trusted the Director at his word, leading to a tacit transfer of power. This was not an overnight sensation, but more a long drift towards the present situation.
Don’t get me wrong, there were opportunities for others to become involved, indeed friends of mine were once on the Executive. Their experiences are telling. They talk of meetings where bank loan documents were circulated at the beginning of the meeting and the Executive told to take 5 minutes to read them and then vote to approve them. Not a lot of time for the Trustees to partake in careful consideration of the financial ramifications or the impact on the long term strategy of the organisation. Indeed, come to think of it, I do not at any point recall seeing an EUS strategic plan. My assumption from this is that the majority of the Executive (the Flavin camp as we could call them) were more than happy to accept that the strategy was in Nick Flavin’s head, and that was sufficient.

Now I want to make it clear, at no point do I think that Nick Flavin intentionally set out to take the real power of EUS into his own hands, it’s just something that happened gradually, almost invisibly, and he thought that what he was doing was for the best. We all know where a road paved with good intentions leads us though!
The elephant in the room here is David Duff – how did he get involved? Well, for those that have read the brief bio of Nick Flavin, you’ll notice that there is not a lot of business experience in there. The fact is that running a charity in Scotland now is akin to running a business, the only difference being that instead of making a profit for your owners/shareholders, you make a surplus to reinvest (well, that’s the general idea – not always adhered to).

Nick Flavin’s lack of business experience could be said to have contributed to a number of issues, not least a lengthy legal battle in 2005/6 over the GRV lease as well as a failure to understand the full ramifications of the 2005 charity legislation (indeed, the Executive were convinced that they were not classed as Trustees as only the Holding Trustees were liable – wonder how many had a rude surprise when they were told that they might be financially liable for any outstanding debts).

As such, David Duff came on the scene to advise the Director and the Executive on the best business course of action. EUS had previously employed financial staff, but they all retired or resigned within a week of each other (a hint of trouble brewing possibly). Following that they employed a Charity Business consultant, but his services were no longer required when he proposed selling off property to alleviate short term debt. Indeed, Nick Flavin had been convinced by David Duff that this was a foolish course of action, that investing in property was the way forward and David Duff even assisted in drafting the proposal and letter severing the relationship with the business consultant he ended up replacing.

In short, David Duff became a shadow director of EUS. Nick would rarely move on an issue without checking it with David Duff. The charity was paying for a Director who had convinced his trustees to pay for a consultant to do most of the work that you would expect the Director to do. I even discovered once that the monthly Director’s reports to the Executive were written by David Duff and emailed to Nick Flavin to send out to the Executive. Paying two people to essentially do one job at a total cost of close to £100,000 could be one of the reasons that EUS was overspending by £300,000 annually.

The quality of the advice David Duff gave, or the intentions behind it are neither here nor there to me. Likewise his previous convictions are irrelevant. My view is that he gave the advice that he thought would keep EUS going as long as possible, and therefore keep his consultancy fees and expenses coming in. If he has made any unjustified material gain from EUS, I suspect Mr Cartwright will discover that.

So who, if anyone, should have stepped in, the University, OSCR, SCVO? All organisations who might have had a chance, but only if EUS had recognised its problem. EUS and its trustees were likely in denial right up to the end. When the University pulled its funding of student activities from EUS, that could have been taken as a not too subtle hint that the organisation was off course.

The trustees could have re-examined their position, their way of working and turned things around. Instead they claimed a sense of entitlement and berated the University for ‘baring a grudge towards EUS’. I suspect this position was taken as a consequence of stories told by Nick Flavin, now synonymous with EUS and vice versa. Perhaps OSCR’s letters of concern would have been the spark, but instead they just assumed that the letters were prompted by disgruntled ex associates and dismissed them with a cursory response telling OSCR what it wanted to hear, again at the prompting of Nick Flavin no doubt.

The only people who could have prevented this from happening were Nick Flavin and the trustees of EUS. For that to have happened they would have had to take the uncomfortable step of admitting that they had made some poor decisions in the past. Unfortunately, either collectively or individually, they could see nothing wrong in their previous actions, and the difficulties were all caused by external forces. I wonder if they still hold that view now.

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35 Responses to “Edinburgh University Settlement: When not if; the slow demise of a much loved old friend…”

  1. Jo PattersonNo Gravatar
    November 25th, 2010 @ 6:29 pm

    This is the best piece of analysis I’ve read on the fate of EUS and the only missing part for me is what happened to Nick and the trustees in the sheriff’s court and what has become of David Duff? 52 staff facing Christmas with no wages or redundacy deal yet will be intersted at least..

  2. lynbrownNo Gravatar
    November 25th, 2010 @ 6:29 pm

    How refreshing to read some facts at last. Not much comfort of course to the abandoned learners and the unpaid staff. Lets hope any proven negligence will be punished.

  3. DavidNo Gravatar
    November 26th, 2010 @ 1:25 pm

    does the behaviour of their auditors not also come under question?

  4. TychyNo Gravatar
    November 26th, 2010 @ 1:36 pm

    This sheds a lot of light and I wish that I had had it to hand when writing about EUS myself. The big question remains, of course, whether things such as stepping stones will get a “bail out” from the council. They certainly deserve one.

  5. AnneNo Gravatar
    November 26th, 2010 @ 2:33 pm

    A week before the news about EUS broke, I was given OSCR’s report on another organisation which went bankrupt, OnePlus: http://www.oscr.org.uk/NewsItem.aspx?ID=5ac06e85-a96f-41d7-be55-9d7773aac1ef
    So when I heard about EUS, I thought – same thing, poor governance. A lesson for all voluntary organisations of whatever size.

  6. Chris RichardsonNo Gravatar
    November 27th, 2010 @ 8:26 pm

    @David – You have a point, auditors do check the books, but they only check that a charity is working within the boundaries of financial good practise and that the processes appear correct. Also, they can only audit what was given to them. Therefore, if they are told all funds are unrestricted and given sets of minutes where decisions are reached by consensus by the whole Executive, who are they to disagree.

    I am not sure of my facts on this one, but I recall the auditors changing a few years back, just after a note was enclosed in the financial accounts regarding EUS being treated as a “going concern” by the old auditors. Again, to me that would have been an alarm bell that things were maybe not as secure as they should be, but it was apparently ignored.

    @Tychy – I too hope that, of all the projects, Stepping Stones can be saved as a concept. Can I suggest that those more local than I maybe get a small group together and speak to the Council, SCVO and the University about setting up a new charity that meets those needs in Edinburgh…

  7. EddieNo Gravatar
    December 3rd, 2010 @ 2:33 pm

    I did some consultancy work with EUS some years ago. I conducted a modest feasibility study – testing EUS’ potential to raise philanthropic support from individuals and businesses. I am retired and do not have the report to hand anymore and in any case it was confidential to EUS. But my recollections are: it was an inspirational organisation – Stepping Stones and Second Chance to Learn exemplified that; Nick Flavin was a creative and pretty inspirational Director; there was not an obvious strategy or “Case for Support'; they could raise money if both of the latter requirements were fulfilled. I never did meet the Trustees, which surprised me, particularly as fundraising would require their personal commitment. Ironically and sadly, one of the individuals I interviewed, an elderly, but still working lady, said she was committed to EUS and clearly was inspired by Nick; she was ready to give, if not in her lifetime, in her will. I advised Nick of this. She died intestate a few years later leaving £6m. Possibly she changed her mind. Most likely this was a missed chance because of lack of follow-up. Not uncommon with some charities.

    I have also been a trustee. I found a lack of a culture and tolerance of even mild, polite, challenging the Executive among fellow trustees.

    I empathise with Chris on his much better informed view than mine of the likely source of EUS problems.

  8. William MalloyNo Gravatar
    December 6th, 2010 @ 7:37 pm

    Whilst there are many commendable things that can be said about both The Forest Cafe and The Roxy Arthouse, one cannot overlook their role in bringing the collapse of the EUS. The EUS were no strangers to the Edinburgh property market and had identified in early 2007 prior to taking advice from David Duff that EUS was running with an operating shortfall and The GRV hadnt been paying rent for a number of years, The Forest Cafe were paying a peppercorn rent on a building that had cost the EUS 600k in 2003.

    David Duff arrived on the scene and contrary to reports made no attempt to hide his background and his criminal past was common knowledge in the office. He was not alone in pushing through the purchase of the Roxy Arthouse in mid 2008.

    A limited company EUS Properties 1 Ltd was set up to manage the portfolio yet neither The GRV, The Roxy nor The Forest were generating anywhere near enough income to cover their own operating costs and overheads let alone generating surplus income for the charity in tough times.

    Having swapped bankers from Bank of Scotland to RBS at the behest of David Duff, the reality is that in order to sustain the loss making venues EUS Properties 1 ltd with the financial backing of the RBS embarked upon the block purchase of 16 flats in the flagship Springside Development (announced march 2010 Scotsman).

    By Festival 2010 money was so tight that the GRV were stealing electricity and it was all over.

    Fundamentally the failure of the EUS to generate the required commercial income from its existing portfolio in the form of The Forest and The GRV coupled with the disastrous purchase of The Roxy in 2008 followed by the flat purchases in february 2010 led to its demise. The failure of both The Roxy, The Forest and The GRV to generate any meaningful income for the EUS to cover the cost of their initial aquisitions in the first place and the subsequent disastrous flat purchase hastened the demise of this longstanding institution. It is a shame that it had managed to survive for 100 years before the existence of either The Forest or The Roxy and had succesfully managed balancing providing an integral part of the edinburgh nightlife in the form of Wilkie House ( which was ran with promoters paying commercial rental and all bar proceeds to EUS) and generating funds from its portfolio as well as providing a bunch of well needed services to a section of society.

  9. virginia maxwellNo Gravatar
    December 7th, 2010 @ 5:15 pm

    I would like to say that Nick Flavin was an enormous supporter of my daughter Ellie Maxwell who founded Firefly International and when she died of Cancer, he came south to the funeral and later helped us sort out her finances with help of Avril – I am particularly sad to see the dismissive attitude expressed by these attachments. It is true and tragic that a charity that was founded over 100 years ago and has contributed so much Edinburgh is now in financial straits but I think one needs to commend the inspirational contribution of Nick Flavin and those working with him.

  10. BrainNo Gravatar
    December 13th, 2010 @ 8:19 am

    The Executive:- They were fed information and manipulated by Nick and David as they also had vested interest in going along with their plans, some on a monetary level and some on a personal level. Any members of the Executive which challenged Nick and David, were disposed of in disgusting fashion.

    David:- This man had a tremendous conflict of interest in his duties. He manipulated all and sundry, intimidated and bullied his way through his role as consultant for EUS. Him, his family and business partners all profited from EUS tremendously which should have been questioned immediately, his role was to increase the surplus, EUS was constantly running at a deficit. He used the situation to line his own pocket in many ways and knew exactly what he was doing. He should be ashamed of his behaviour, though if his previous track record was noted, it should have shown a consistent pattern of behaviour, which he has proven consistent.

    David continually uses his knowledge of the Legal process to intimidate all and sundry. He continually avoids repaying Debt in any shape or form, in the hope that it shall eventually disappear, bankruptcy is the end result.

    Callison Eaton:- Another of David Duff’s business partners, helped to milk EUS dry.

    The Auditors:- They did inform of the dangers and they were ignored.

    It was all a merry little dance, where the leaders of an organisation, lived their own little fantasies, neglected to put solid foundations in place and the end result is that vulnerable members of the community and members of staff have been affected to a huge degree. Whilst those in control are still sitting comfortable others are suffering.

    A disgusting mess and you should be ashamed of yourselves.

  11. Bollinger BoyoNo Gravatar
    December 17th, 2010 @ 10:09 pm

    Anyone who does any checking at all on google can discover that David Duff set up not just EUS Properties 1 ltd but also EUS properties 2 ltd, EUS properties 3 ltd, EUS properties 4 ltd and EUS properties 5 ltd!!! His common law wife Jacqueline Caws was Secretary. Read the following Court Case from 2007 concerning these two around the time he joined the EUS.


    It looks like the fraud squad should be looking at Nick Flavin, David Duff, Callison Eaton and anyone else who lined their own pockets whilst sinking the EUS.

  12. Bollinger BoyoNo Gravatar
    December 17th, 2010 @ 10:23 pm

    Why did David Duff and Callison Eaton use the Settlement in the form of EUS properties 1 ltd to finance buying a block of 16 flats in the RBS springside development and thereby saddling EUS with a mortgage for millions to the RBS.

    Edapartments.com seems to be the vehicle used to rent these flats out. If one checks the registrant we get Callison Eaton.


    If you attempt to rent one of these properties there is no difference between edapartments.com and scottishapartments.com

    Scottishapartments.com is a company owned by David Duff’s friend and the whole thing stinks to high heaven.

    Duff must have thought it was Hibs all over again and sadly for us it was.

    How many businesses have David Duff and Callison Eaton bankrupted over the years?

  13. Bollinger BoyoNo Gravatar
    December 18th, 2010 @ 3:58 am

    forgot to include the link about the flat purchase!!


  14. Rachel SavageNo Gravatar
    December 30th, 2010 @ 2:12 pm

    I was very sorry to stumble across this post and the news of the Settlement’s demise. I worked for EUS from 2001-2005. At the time I was concerned by the lack of involvement of most of the Executive Committee in the running of the charity. I was equally concerned by the lack of interest shown by the vast majority of members/donors. I raised these concerns with Nick Flavin, but he resisted my suggestions to change things (surveys, focus groups, an away day for the Executive).

    EUS always operated on a shoestring. I remember running into the then treasurer while out doing some last minute shopping the week before Christmas in 2004. “Good news” he told me. “I’ve sorted out the overdraft with the bank and you will be getting paid this month.” It was a relief, but I don’t think most of the staff or the trustees realised how close to bankruptcy the organisation was even then.

    During my tensure at EUS, two financial things worried me in particular: the lack of rent being paid by Tom McAleer, who was renting out Wilkie House for an unsustainably large rent and the purchase of the former church that was rented out to the Forest Cafe.

    But Nick Flavin, who always operated on the assumption that things would work out in the end (and for 20+ years, they did), was unconcerned about any of this. And the Executive Committee rubber stamped anything.

    I left before David Duff was recruited, so I can’t say anything about his involvement, but the finances were precarious long before that.

    Admirably, Nick had a vision of making EUS self-sustaining by using the profits of the property and furniture businesses to support the Settlement’s important charitable activities. If he’d succeeded, EUS would be in a better position to weather the current financial situation, with all charities expecting to face cuts to their income from public sources. But it didn’t work out that way.

  15. Mike Swann-SkimmingNo Gravatar
    January 20th, 2011 @ 6:23 am

    Chris Richardson has probably covered most of the points that people would like to read about, however did he really know Nick Flavin, I mean the real person.
    Yes he was gung ho as I would put it and sometimes an idea would spring into his head and he would go for it without consultation.But deep down he believed in everything he did to better someone else.
    I entered the EUS as a volunteer to start with in or around 1993-94
    My background was Hotel and Nightclub mangement and I advised Nick on the operation of the fringe venues and the amount of rental the EUS should be getting,I was the person who was responsible for the old Traverse being turned around and becoming Stepping Stones, and turning the disused section into offices to let out to disadvantaged theatre companies and I transformed the ground floor into an art galley and increased the profits of the EUS 10 fold,I then turned my attentions to wilkie house and made it profitable , However short sighted members of the executive questioned if this was the way forward to raise money through alcohol !
    Nick Flavin was out voted and had to cease the commercialisation of the EUS and go back to the mundane task of acquiring funding from government bodies. His idea of second chance computers and office furniture was positively inspired and would have been more successful if the Executive had stayed out of it and let Myself and Nick Flavin run it as a commercial business. I left the EUS upset that I could no longer help as I was a commercialy driven person who had the charities best interest at heart.
    I do fell that the downfall could be attributed to Mr Duff who is well known in certain circles.
    But hats off to Nick Flavin the Priest who cared.

  16. Chris RichardsonNo Gravatar
    January 27th, 2011 @ 7:05 pm

    @ Mike:

    Yes Mike, I did know Nick, and I do recognise that Nick thought what he was doing was for the best. Indeed, I believe I commented to that effect in the main article.

    The point of the piece was not to attack the character of Nick Flavin, or anyone else for that matter, but to highlight that the process collapsed with EUS, and that is what led them to disaster.

    We could argue ad infinitum about specific ideas, charity commercialisation (or as I would term it, broadening your fundraising profile) and whether or not the Exec of old should have allowed some of the ideas you had, but the fact remains that the Exec were the legally responsible body, and they became excluded and uninformed.

    Trust me, it’s a real pain working for a committee of governance or executive. I was responsible to one in my previous job, and I am in my current role (both roles involve managing and overseeing charity organisations). They question your decisions, they hold you to account, they ask you to do things you don’t necessarily agree with and then they don’t approve initiatives that you think will take the organisation forward. It’s tough at times, but that is the way it is, and for good reason, because when thing do go wrong, it’s they who end up in court!

    Nick’s ‘decision’ (your inference) not to consult with the Executive overturned the accepted model of charity governance and led to poor decisions made in a clandestine way. I don’t doubt Nicks good intentions, but they led EUS straight to hell.

  17. arilinnNo Gravatar
    April 7th, 2011 @ 1:49 pm

    I am mystified over the “David Duff and Callison Eaton” comments.

    Callison Eaton was at no time a business associate of David Duff. She was introduced to Settlement by the COoke Twins who employed her to take on the management of the GRV as part of their arrangement to buy the lease. The Cooke twins withdrew from this arrangement six weeks into the deal, leaving EUS with a licensed premises in operation and no prospective buyers or management team. In these circumstances, EUS asked Callison Eaton to stay on and continue the job she had started under someone elses employment, as she was proving efficient and productive. IN fact Callison Eaton shepharded the GRV through the new liquor licensing legislation – not an easy job, and became licensee. She was later co-opted into management of the property side of the EUS business on the understanding that the commercial enterprise was working to produce profits for EUS. As she developed concerns about what was going on, she took various measures including going to Nick Flavin with evidence, and submitting documents to a fraud specialist to determine if there was a problem and if sufficient legal evidence was available. These serious allegations of bad faith from Callison Eaton are not founded on any information I can see presented here. Has anyone actually asked her view on this?

  18. Patrick CookeNo Gravatar
    May 3rd, 2011 @ 4:55 pm

    As I have been personally named, let me clarify the gross inaccuracies in the above comment.

    The “Cooke Twins” didn’t withdraw from the deal six weeks in. The following should clear these up:

    Callison Eaton was not an employee but an equal partner with the “Cooke Twins”, although she had no funds to contribute to the business only her so called expertise.

    One month after taking over in a mangement capacity at the GRV we were still awaiting any signed documentation from EUS giving us any rights or security of tenancy which would allow us to proceed with the purchase.

    The bar turnover at the GRV was on average 7000 pounds per week far less than the 10,000 we had been led to believe. Each day was spent dealing with debtors who claimed ownership of all the sound equipment, lighting equipment, fire alarm , video security system, coffee machine, fruit suppliers, taxi firms, cleaners, printers, EPOS till system, in fact everything in the building which wasn’t bolted down.

    At this point with no legal rights whatsoever we were still expected to pay 250,000 pounds for the lease(the right to pay 2,000 pounds per week rental). A demand was made to pay an initial 20,000 pounds into a friend of Claire Milne’s bank account, a further 100,000 pounds deposit to EUS and the balance when the license and other paperwork would be completed.

    Callison Eaton and David Duff both advised us to pay the 20,000 pounds into the bank account of a person we had never met.

    In the 4 weeks in charge Callison Eaton had replaced the previous management structure with herself as general manager, her daughter as bar manager and her daughter’s friend as asistant manager making themselves completely indispensable to the running of the building regardless of who actually owned it.

    David Duff had already threatened that if we failed to stump up the rent on a weekly basis, having no lease he would change the locks and the EUS would run the building themselves.

    Against the background of the precarious financial position of the EUS, David Duff’s fraudulent history, the lack of assets and turnover and the worry that we were indeed about to be ejected and Callison Eaton would happily become an employee of the EUS leaving us “out in the cold” we had a meeting (witnessed by a member of staff from Blimey) where we voiced our concerns to Callison Eaton where she assured us that she had not already negotiated with David Duff and Claire Milne to stay at the EUS behind our backs and indeed assured us 100% that she would definately not stay and work for the EUS on her own if we were unable to reach an agreement with them over an acceptable price.

    At a meeting on the Thursday evening at the start of the festival Jim refused to pay the 20,000 pounds into Claire’s friends bank a/c by the following Wednesday and by the Friday morning Callison Eaton “was in charge for the EUS for the duration of the festival” and James and I were banned from the offices.

    The “withdrawal” as you so eloguently referred to what happened to the “Cooke Twins” was the ideal option for Callison Eaton as she was in a win win situation, she had made herself and her daughter indespensible to the running of the GRV and with no-one to question their authority they could run the club as if they owned it without having to pay a penny. A guaranteed salary every week regardless of how well you do your job, the only person to answer to was David Duff who was only in Edinburgh for a couple of days every few weeks.

    David Duff and the EUS never replied to our messages and to this date we have had absolutely no contact with them since.

    Suggesting that Callison Eaton was some white knight who helped the EUS in a management capacity after we left them in the lurch is a grossly innacurate interpretation of events.

    Callison Eaton was fully aware in July 2008 of David Duff’s fraudulent past, indeed she informed us of his multi million pound fraud commited building a property empire whilst owning Hibs without having paid a penny for it himself(ring any bells????). She was also fully aware that the EUS was in financial difficulty as its office was littered with red bills whilst David Duff was being paid 5,000 per month and as it had just purchased The Roxy,this would be an additional drain on the already badly stretched finances.

    Having suggested to us that we invest in a property development business with her before she ever had a meeting David Duff and her own business background in propert development, hotels, pubs and restaurants ( Swing, The Lodge, The City Cafe, The Store, The Borough ),Callison Eaton was only too eager to be involved in the EUS on a much greater scale than running the GRV one or two days a week after making herself and her daughter indispensible to EUS. The move into the property management side of the EUS business with David Duff’s grandiose aparthotel “Springside” Property Deal was far from being the act of an innocent dupe.

    Our concerns over possible fraud etc, notwithstanding the unrealistic asking price and lack of turnover were sufficient for us to have serious reservations about dealings with David Duff and we raised them in long and lengthy discussions with Callison Eaton, on a daily basis.

    Callison had her eyes open from the day she met David Duff so I can only say with the benefit of my knowledge of the matter, I agree fully with the various posters above who have questioned her innocence in this affair.

    I am personally glad I chose to listen to my common sense and instincts and not jump into bed with a convicted fraudster and proceed to carry out a similar business deal to the one that sent him to jail.

    As a friend of Callison Eaton who genuinely thought we were going into business together as equal partners, I was disappointed that she chose this line of action and she has never spoken to me since then to explain.

    This clarifies any confusion that may exist over who knew what when.

    If you climb into bed with a snake, and you know its a snake you can hardly moan when it turns round and bites you!!!!!!!!!!!!

  19. Bollinger BoyoNo Gravatar
    May 4th, 2011 @ 10:06 pm

    If one Googles “David Duff Callison Eaton” and click on the 3rd link down:


    We find that at the same time as Callison Eaton was being:

    “co-opted into management of the property side of the EUS business on the understanding that the commercial enterprise was working to produce profits for EUS. As she developed concerns about what was going on, she took various measures including going to Nick Flavin with evidence, and submitting documents to a fraud specialist to determine if there was a problem and if sufficient legal evidence was available.

    She was also going into business with David Duff and they were setting up at least one limited company together “QM 5 Limited” with both of them as directors.

    Are we honestly expected to believe anyone who had enough concerns to contact “fraud specialists” about a work colleague would also be going into business with the same person.

    Callison had known about David Duff’s fraudulent past and Dishonest Nature from the moment they first met and had been working for over two years together by this time.

    What possible conflict of interests could arise from this action?

    Did QM 5 Ltd benefit in any way from dealings with EUS?


    Are these the actions of someone acting in good faith?

    According to the Scotsman by October that year:


    This would suggest in fact that Emerald Eaton was the licence holder not Callison Eaton.

    It seems rather convenient that three weeks before the license was due to be revoked it was suddenly taken over by a company run by the director of a security firm Blair Galloway.

    This couldn’t possibly be the same Blair Galloway of “G & L Security” who Callison Eaton installed as security at the GRV the second she was in charge. The same Blair Galloway who has in fact known Callison Eaton in a personal and business capacity ever since she first employed him to provide security at her “Store nightclub” in what is now Whistlebinkies pub over twenty years ago.

    What price was actually paid for the lease and how much rental was being paid by this new company? The “Cooke Twins” were expected to pay 250,000 upfront and 2000 per week rental and I sincerely hope that nothing underhand happened.

    If Callison has nothing to hide we are all ears for an explanation…..

  20. AnonNo Gravatar
    October 20th, 2011 @ 1:26 pm

    Having been very involved with the GRV and David ‘Dodgy’ Duff in 2007-8, and throughout the ‘Cooke Twins’/ Callison Eaton take-over, I can with 100% accuracy say that David Duff was instrumental in the inaccuracies that all Employees & new potential leasers were informed of. He was VERY aware of the cr*p he fed everyone and this was all for his own financial gain. I’m unaware of any relationship he had with callison eaton, but if what I read above is true then is certainly rings alarm bells.
    All employees were unfairly dismissed, and after winning a tribunal are STILL (Oct 2011) owed upwards of £10K in total. Claire Milne (financer of the GRV in 2007/8) took 100% advice from David Duff and he manipulated his way into lining his very fat pockets.

    The ‘Cooke Twins’ were ill-advised, but in saying that – the tupe’d staff were honest with all affairs that had led them to that point – which included serious doubts about David Duff’s involvement and Claire Milne’s ability to make business decisions.
    At the point of the proposed take over, there were various companies (many of which have since gone under) owed money and this was all swept under the carpet – based on advise given by David Duff.

    The company was directed by monkeys and its not surprising that it fell to pieces.

    I feel for the staff for all EUS owned buildings who worked hard, believed in what they were doing and lost out due to the advice and awful working ethos of David Dodgy Duff and incompetent directors.

    As a side note, and purely as it was mentioned above – Blair Galloway was sacked from the GRV in 2007 for attempting to punch a staffmember, I can only assume that him being allowed back into the business (and subsequently taking over – re-inventing the store) is down to awful management, personal friendships and a serious lack of interest for the wellbeing of customers. Anyone heading to store does so at their own risk.

  21. Duff FoxNo Gravatar
    November 27th, 2011 @ 1:47 am


    The man who ousted him was David Duff, a large, garrulous Scotsman, then aged 32, who had made little secret of his desire to take over the firm since he had arrived in Ramsbury from Edinburgh.

    There were some at Phelps and Lawrence who disliked David Duff. He was loud and he was pushy but, more than that, he was a little too free with the firm’s money. He seemed to spend all his time up in London with his cronies, running up huge expenses, sticking his fingers into all kinds of pies and bragging about work which never materialised. When an auditor started asking difficult questions, he sacked her. His colleagues could see nothing that was exactly improper, but it made them uneasy and some of them thought that David Duff would come to a sticky end one day.
    In the years since he had left Phelps and Lawrence, Read had had little to do with the man who ousted him, the garrulous David Duff. But now, five years later, their paths crossed again. For, left behind to rule the roost in Rambsury, Duff had been playing exactly the same games and with even more lucrative results.

    First Duff had soared. He became senior partner of Phelps and Lawrence, made easy money out of the housing boom, constantly dreamed of new money-spinning schemes – an off-licence, a fish shop, a record company, a flying club – and got just about nowhere with any of them until, in the summer of 1987, he astonished everyone who knew him by talking his way into an £800,000 deal to take over Hibernian football club, the Edinburgh team which he had followed as a boy. He persuaded a financier in Monaco to put up the money and appointed himself chairman of the board.

    Now, he lived the life of his dreams – three new homes in Edinburgh, chauffeur driven Mercedes (with HIBS 1 on the number plate), a club salary of £62,000 a year, constant commuting between London and Scotland, holding forth at press conferences, flying around the world with the team, pumping hands with the rich and famous. He used to drink champagne in a pub in Southampton with a group of other wealthy professionals; they called themselves the Bollinger Boys. But David Duff’s life as a sporting baron was all just as phoney as David Read’s life as a legal benefector, and just as crooked.

    Police in Hampshire stumbled across Duff’s name in the autumn of 1990 as they investigated reports of another fraud in their area. They spent months trying to unravel the empire he had built from Ramsbury and finally concluded that he had abused his position as a lawyer to commit frauds totalling £5.5 million. Like David Read, he had treated local building societies as one bloated cash cow, ready to pour money down his throat every time he squeezed it. His lies were more inventive than Read’s. Apart from borrowing more than £1.5 million in his own name, he also borrowed £975,000 in the names of his staff and a further £1.1 million by stealing loans that he was supposed to be holding temporarily for clients.

    At one point, he had so many mortgages that it was costing him £30,000 a month in interest to keep them all afloat. He could not afford that, so he stole his clients’ money. A woman friend whose husband died gave him a power of attorney to deal with the sale of her house while she went abroad; he took the money. He owed money to a bank, whose manager became so fed up with Duff’s stalling that he personally went to his office to get a cheque to pay off his overdraft; to cover it, Duff had to steal the proceeds from the sale of a house for a client whose divorce he was handling.

    By the time the police started looking at Duff, his empire was already collapsing. His adventures as chairman of Hibs had ended in disarray when fans discovered that he had run up debts of £6 million in only three years and that apart from living the life of a credit-card junkie at the club’s expense, he had spent a small fortune of the club’s scarce funds on buying an ailing hotel chain in the west of England from his backer in Monaco. He was forced to resign.
    Mr Duff is a former solicitor who was convicted of mortgage fraud in August 1993 and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. He was subsequently struck off the roll of solicitors on 9 August 1994, following a hearing before the Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal. The facts found by the Tribunal in the report of its findings dated 3 October 1994 included the following.

    Mr Duff had been admitted a solicitor in 1981, and had practised initially as a partner and then as a sole practitioner in the firm of Phelps & Lawrence in Swindon. He had been involved in a series of mortgage frauds between 1988 and 1991. The matters had been complex and large sums of money had been involved. A very large sum of money had been paid out of the Law Society’s Compensation Fund, the figure at the date of the hearing being in the region of £1,800,080. The frauds had been perpetrated with the assistance of two clerks employed by the firm. On 8 July 1993 Mr Duff had been convicted at Winchester Crown Court of four offences of obtaining property by deception and three offences of theft, and on 6 August 1993 he was sentenced to a total of two years’ imprisonment in respect of those offences. He appealed to the Court of Appeal against his conviction, but his appeal was dismissed on 14 June 1994.

  22. Anne OpieNo Gravatar
    December 12th, 2011 @ 4:23 am

    I worked between late 1967-the last quarter of 1969 for the EUS as the person responsible for connecting the volunteer students to the work the EUS was asked to undertake: at that stage, visiting the elderly, decorating the single rooms in which elderly or people with disabilities lived; doing gardening for the same; and, less frequently, helping out in local children’s homes. I was most interested to read Chris’ account of the issues leading to the Settlement’s demise but am clearly not in a position to comment on much of what he wrote.

    However, what I immediately connected with were his comments about the trustees’ failure to fulfill their role and an organisational unwillingness to discuss possible areas of re-conceptualisation and orientation of work. As time went on, I became increasingly unclear about the role of the EUS and how it was interpreting it. I was very aware that my predecessor had also raised some concerns about this same issue (although what he actually had said got rather lost in allegations about his communist leanings). I finally wrote to the chair of the Board. Rather than come to talk to me and clarify more fully what my (possibly rather inchoate) concerns were, he went immediately to the director; I was summoned to a meeting and was quickly tarred with an ‘activist’ (undefined) brush. I left shortly after to do what was then a post-grad diploma in social administration at EU as a start in a social work career.

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