John Low, the man behind the Ashvale fish and chip empire, has died aged 88.
In earlier years, he ran a string of bookmakers in the north-east, hotels, and turned out as a goalkeeper for the Dons in a cup tie.
He bought his first chip shop in 1979 in Bridge of Don and expanded the Ashvale brand to 14 outlets at one point.
One of his firm’s most famous creations was The Whale, a one pound haddock supper, which sells by the hundred across his shops.
John, who lived in Brechin since the 1970s, was born in Inverurie to John and Kathy Low.
His father was a maintenance engineer at Aberdeen University and John was educated at Aberdeen Grammar School.
When he left school he went to work as an accountant at a fish processing firm.
It was during a spell working at accountancy firm Flockhert and Grant that he met his future wife, fellow accountant, Anne Birnie.
The couple married in 1956 and went on to have two children, John and Linda.
During the 1960s, John made the move from accountancy to betting shops and opened a number of outlets in the Aberdeen area.
He had branches of John Low betting shops in Stonehaven, Portlethen, Banchory and several around Aberdeen city.
John’s son, John junior who used to transport betting slips between the shops as a young man, said his father sold the business to Ladbrokes in around 1980.
He also had an interest in hotels in Stonehaven and Aberdeen, owned Topscot which sold scampi, and owned a seafood cold storage facility at Tullos before developing the Ashvale.
In 1979 John bought his first chip shop, Fish ‘n’ Things in Scotstown Road, Bridge of Don.
It was not until six years later, however, that the Ashvale brand was born and expansion got under way.
John said: “My father bought a fish and chip shop in Great Western Road in Aberdeen. By coincidence there was a fish and chip shop nearby called the Ashvale which had a great reputation.
“When the owner, a Mrs Stuart retired and the new owners changed its name to the Continental, my father approached Mrs Stuart to ask if he could use the Ashvale name.
“She agreed and that is how the name came about. Over the years, other shops were added and we had 14 at one point including three in Dundee, one in Keith and one in Brechin.”
Today the Ashvale has eight branches including in Inverurie, Ellon and Banchory as well as in Aberdeen.
As a younger man, John Low was a goalkeeper and played 485 consecutive games in the Highland League with Elgin City, Buckie Thistle and Keith.
He won Aberdeen and District table tennis Division One title three times and represented Aberdeen in inter-league tournaments.
In August 1959 when Aberdeen FC’s two goalkeepers were out of action, John turned out for the Dons in a League Cup tie at Pittodrie.
He played in front of a crowd of 8,500 but Aberdeen lost 2-4 to visitors Kilmarnock that day.
John was also an accomplished golfer who played at Brechin, Edzell and Stonehaven.
At its height, the Ashvale employed 300 staff and today it has a payroll of around 180.
It’s giant fish supper, The Whale, was slow to take off when it was first introduced but now it is a favourite, said Ashvale operations director Stuart Devine.
“At first it was American visitors who asked for The Whale, which is one pound of haddock, but it soon grew on locals.
“We used to use cod but haddock suited local tastes better. Pre Covid, we were selling about 100 a week and that is starting to build up again,”
Across John’s Low’s eight outlets, around 10,000 fish suppers are sold a week on top of other chip shop staples such as pies and puddings.