The previous Journal gave a glimpse into my background, and I have been able to expand upon that with the many members I have met within the Club, at the Royal Bath & West and Royal Welsh Shows, and on the London walking tour in July, writes new Club Secretary Andrei Spence.
My family hails from Oldham in Lancashire, and I have to admit we have no reasonable connection with farming – aside from six summer vacations during A levels and my university years working for Mr Mitchell at Egerton Hall Farm in Cheshire, on the Cholmondely Estate, where fruit picking, roguing and hay baling were the order of the day.
Retrospectively, and with my newly acquired knowledge of farming industry, I think Mr Mitchell already had a handle on the need for diversification. After the 1976 drought decimated his fruit crops, he built a huge reservoir. He stocked it with trout and founded Egerton Springs fishery, which exists to this day – resilience and innovation, much as I have seen during my recent visits to farms/estates around the country.
Our branch of the family had moved when I was five to the Wirral peninsula, following my father’s career in teaching/management, and I was schooled locally before going to Aston University to study Economics/Psychology. After graduating in 1983, and a brief spell as an ambulance driver, I joined the Royal Navy as a Logistics Officer in 1984, the year I also married my wife Alison.
Operational Tours at sea ranged from the Falkland Islands to the Arabian Gulf and the Far East, interspersed with shore posts in Rosyth, Faslane, Plymouth, Portsmouth and here in the MoD in London. Consequently I have moved my family at frequent intervals around the four corners of the UK.
In 1990 I undertook specialist legal training and was called to the Bar in 1993. I have been the Logistics Officer on board ships, managing the catering, stores, cash, pay and records of all personnel. One of my greatest challenges was in 2003 when I was the Logistics Commander running Portsmouth Naval Base, with a team of over 500 and a budget of £60M.
I have worked on the personal staff of the First Sea Lord and in policy roles in the MoD, and on the legal side I have been the senior Prosecutor in the Royal Navy, and latterly, the Head of Naval Legal Services, until retiring in June.
Southsea, near Portsmouth, has been the place we have lived for the longest time in our 32 years of married life, coinciding with some much needed educational stability for our two sons, Myles (26) and Oliver (22).
I am Vice Chairman of Governors at St John’s College, an independent boarding and day school in Southsea, where I also chair the Finance and General Purposes Committee. As a younger man my interests revolved around sport; football, rugby, cricket and athletics. I played representational sport at local town level and at Command level in the Royal Navy.
Aged 50 I finally gave up five-a-side football, as my body responded nowhere nearly as quickly as required by my brain! I now confine myself to walking and hill-climbing (Scafell Pyke and Snowdon being the last significant climbs over the past two years). I am a great lover of music across all genres, enjoy opera and West End theatre and enjoy watching motorsport – on two and four wheels.
Why the Farmers Club
I was looking for a challenge that was completely un-related to the Royal Navy or the MoD – not because I had not enjoyed it, but out of a sense wanting to prove to myself that I could take my fairly wide experience and skill set into another sector, and succeed.
I have extensive management experience and my logistics background suits me well for providing the services required of a private members club, from catering to financial management and infrastructure. I suppose it is a sense of wanting to serve by delivering the means, in this case, for the Club to be successful, financially secure, and continually striving to provide even better facilities and experiences for our members, all aligned to the ethos and ambience of the Club that makes it so unique and special.
It is a little early to start mapping out the future of the Club as I complete my first month in post. The CREST Club refurbishment has rightly been the focal point for our collective efforts. The vision and energy of my predecessor and the delivery in very large part by Virginia Masser have been incredible.
I already have some embryonic ideas that revolve around the updating of our computer network infrastructure, efforts to encourage more U35/U30 members to join your ranks, and the continual upgrading of our rooms.
I am also alert to any possibility to make measured, sustainable and affordable expansion to our room numbers and of course, setting about making sustained surpluses in order to provide the platform for lease renewal when that time comes. Seventy years seems a long time, but if the Club is to celebrate its 250th anniversary in these premises, or indeed anywhere else, then the financial foundations need to be laid now.
I very much look forward to working with the excellent staff team at your Club and to meeting members from across the UK and beyond. Indeed, please do not hesitate to get in touch, by phone, email, or in person here at the Club - my door is always open!
Chief Executive & Secretary
020 7930 3751