My life in hospitality – Peter Sweeney

23 July 2010 by
My life in hospitality – Peter Sweeney

Born in Paddington, London, Peter Sweeney left school at 15 to work as a messenger boy for the Star and News Chronicle newspapers. Then came a stint at a building firm, where he met his future wife, Mary, before he joined the Merchant Navy as a steward. "I got to see a lot of the world before I was 18, travelling on the cargo boats which took the £10 immigrants to Australia - but I decided I wanted to get my feet back on firm ground."

On returning to London in 1962 he began what has been a 48-year career in the hotel industry by joining the Hartford hotel, a Trusthouse Forte property, as a doorman. "I immediately knew that I was going to enjoy the job, as I loved meeting people," says Sweeney.

He was soon joined at the hotel by his older brother, Alan, who became a porter, and younger brother, John, as a doorman. It was Alan who was to be instrumental in Sweeney's next, and most significant, move to the Goring hotel.

"Alan went off to the Goring as a doorman, but after a few months, decided to join the Army. He suggested that I went for his job. I had to go for it as I was offered £14 10s a week - £4 10s more than I was getting at the Hartford. I joined the Goring in 1965 and have been there ever since."

Meanwhile, brother John moved to the Royal Garden hotel, where he remained as doorman for 29 years before taking early retirement to live in Spain.

"My first impressions of the Goring were good, and I found the other staff to be very friendly and welcoming, but I never imagined I would still be there 45 years later," recalls Sweeney.

As the hotel's longest-serving member of staff, Sweeney has received a plethora of gifts over the years for his service including a gold watch, a holiday in the USA and, to mark 40 years on the door, two tickets to anywhere in the world.

"I worked full-time until I was 65, but now do four days a week, from 8am to 4.30pm.

"I still love the job as much as ever, and I have no intention of stopping. It has been great to work with such a wonderful team, as well as meet so many people from all over the world and from different walks of life."

When he is not working, Sweeney likes to take holidays. "In fact, the staff at the hotel call me Alan Whicker, as I'm always off somewhere different.

"So far this year I've been to Mexico, the Canaries, Majorca and Morocco."

HIGHS… Meeting so many wonderful people over the years - particularly those who he has looked up to, such as the actress Jean Simmons and actor Christopher Lee - have been Sweeney's highs. "I've also met many members of the Royal Family, including the Queen, the Queen Mother, Prince Andrew and Prince William," he explains. "And I've some wonderful memories of helping out a friend in the British Legion - when I had some time off from the Goring - to help prepare for a banquet for the president of Mexico at Windsor Castle."

LOWS… Sweeney became ill with Hodgkin's disease - cancer of the lymph glands - in 1980 and was off work for two-and-a-half years. "It was tough, but the Goring was fantastically supportive," he remembers. "Over the years, the hotel's staff, especially Mr George Goring and Mr Jeremy Goring, have been wonderful to me at some very difficult times, such as when I lost Mary, my wife, in 2001 and then my daughter, Susan, in 2008."


Age 67

Family Widowed, two sons and two daughters (one daughter died in 2008)

Holiday Anywhere it is sunny

Drives Ford Mondeo

Motto Keep working for as long as you can

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