Picture: The Times/News Syndication
Former Hotelier of the Year Ron Jones celebrates his 90th birthday today, 22 years after retiring as general manager at Claridge's hotel.
Since stepping down from day-to-day hotel management, Jones has gone on to co-author several books with his wife Eve Jones, a journalist who he met when she interviewed him for a series of articles of Great British Hoteliers for The Caterer. At the time he was general manager of the Athenaeum hotel.
"My version of what followed is that she asked me so many questions I had to marry her to keep her quiet: hers is that it didn't work," he wrote in Grand Hotelier: Behind the Scenes in Britain's Best Hotels. Ron and Eve married in 1978 at the Queen's Chapel of the Savoy.
Jones's career spanned years working in the management of the Turnberry and Gleneagles hotels in Scotland; the Adelphi, Liverpool; Midland, Manchester and Queens hotel, Leeds. As well as the Athenaeum and Claridge's in London, he also worked at the Royal Garden.
When asked to sum up the 75 years that he has spent in the hospitality industry, Jones said it was impossible. "How could I have imagined, that first day, a nervous 15-year-old trainee at the Adelphi hotel, Liverpool, the rollercoaster ride to come?
"And at 19, huddled with dozens of other Royal Navy recruits in the chapel of the battleship King George V in mid-Pacific while a kamikaze pilot in a plane full of explosives did his best to end his life and ours on our quarter-deck? All I could do was pray I'd live to see 20!
As well as writing, much of Jones's retirement has been spent travelling with Eve as they have been guest lecturers on cruise liners, spending four to five months a year on the likes of the QE2 and Queen Mary, as well as the ships of Silversea, Seabourn, Saga and Regent Seven Seas and Oceania.
Jones was named The Caterer's Hotelier of the Year in 1988, during his 10-year stint at the helm of Claridge's, which he joined in 1984. He was awarded the OBE in 1989, was a visiting fellow of Oxford Brookes University, received an honorary doctorate from the University of Derby, and became one of the early intake of the Master Innholders. He served as a director of Dormy House hotel in Broadway, Worcestershire, from 1995 to 2010.
Every year the chapel where Ron and Eve married hosts a renewal of vows ceremony. This year the event takes place today.
Paul Jackson, the recently appointed general manager of Claridge's, became food and beverage manager at the hotel during Jones's tenure of the property.
He said: "Ronald Jones is a truly inspirational hotelier; whose leadership has touched the lives and hearts of so many guests and colleagues during his stewardship of several legendary hotels, especially at Claridge's where his legacy is still fondly remembered and revered by all those fortunate enough to have known him.
"On a personal note, it was his guidance and mentorship that has shaped my career - I owe him an immense debt of gratitude."