Veteran Bournemouth hotelier Jennie Deavin celebrated 45 years in hospitality by partying with some of her many ‘protégés’.
In the last five decades Jennie, 67, has owned five Bournemouth hotels and employed hundreds of staff.
The Marsham Court, now run by her daughter Rosie Wallace, is one of the town’s last family run hotels and was this year named Large Hotel of the Year in the Bournemouth Tourism Awards.
Yet Jennie says her biggest accomplishment has been watching many of the ‘youngsters’ she employed as waitresses, doormen and bar staff go on to their own successful careers in hospitality.
She said: “I took over the Bonnington Hotel in Tregonwell Road from my parents in 1971 and have owned four other hotels since then, but the best thing about this job has always been the wonderful staff.
“Many have been young people who have come to us from school, on work experience or early on in their careers and they have gone on to blossom before my eyes.
“Some people get upset when their staff leave them but I don’t. I only get upset when I know they are not going on to something even better.
“I’m very proud to have helped them get onto the career ladder.”
Jennie celebrated her milestone with a party at the Marsham Court in Russell-Cotes Road.
But the celebrations were tinged by sadness, as the mum-of-three has terminal cancer.
She said: “When my daughter Rosie asked me how I wanted to celebrate 45 years in the business I said: “A party! with those I have worked with.”
“Obviously I wanted to do this before it was too late, so we got on the phones and posted details on social media and waited to see who would respond.
“We were amazed by how many people replied. Dozens – including one lady, Trixi Lynch who worked for us at the Bonnington, and flew in specially for the party from Dublin.
“It was very a emotional evening for me. But absolutely magical.”
Richard Norris is an HR Director based in London and worked for Jennie at the Marsham Court from 1995-2000.
He said: “Jennie taught me to be no nonsense, to do as I say I will and to look after people. It is an approach I have built a successful career on.”
He added: “I really enjoyed the party it was great to see old faces and catch up with Mrs D.
“Everyone got on like a family which is a tribute to the culture that Jennie has created.”
Michael Begley was the Marsham Court’s first sales manager and has gone on to become MD of venuedirectory.com
He also owns a 10-bedroom boutique hotel and restaurant in the Cotswolds.
He said: “Jennie is a tour de force and I owe a great deal of my success to her.
“She taught me to be firm but fair. To try not to say: “no”, but to say: “maybe” and to encourage the young as they are the leaders of tomorrow.
“She was also famous for telling me to: “Tuck your shirt in Begley!”
Rosie Burns, now 25, was given an apprenticeship at the Marsham Court in 2007 at the age of 16.
She now works for a national events firm.
She said: “I worked in the hotel restaurant from 2007- 2008 and reception from 2008-2010 and Jennie and her family supported me through my college studies.
“After I left the hotel Jennie sent me a handwritten letter thanking me for everything and telling me to “spread my wings” and be the best I could be. It meant a lot and I still have the letter now.”
Sarah Mayer was Jennie’s restaurant manager at the Marsham Court from 1995 to 2005 and also has her to thank for her husband.
She explained: “I really enjoyed working for Jennie and actually met my husband Gareth at the Marsham Court, so I have love to thank her for too!”
Andy Thompson, 33, joined the Marsham Court on a work experience placement from Bournemouth University almost 13 years ago and has climbed the ranks.
He has been a barman, a waiter and a doorman and is now a Duty Manager.
He also won the Bournemouth Tourism Rising Star Award 2016.
He said: “I owe Mrs D so much for giving me an opportunity and her unwavering support ever since.
“She has faith in people and inspires us all to be the best we can.”
1971 – Jennie takes over the Bonnington Hotel from her parents.
1979 – Jennie and her first husband Chris Dixon-Box buy the Westcliff Hall in Priory Road
1987 – They sell both hotels to buy the rather dilapidated Marsham Court Hotel from the De Vere Group.
1997 – Jennie and second husband Hugh Deavin acquire the Marsham Court and carry out a £1.5m renovation project.
2000 – They buy back the Bonnington from a cousin and run it for two years before selling it and buying the Pavilion Hotel in Bath Road.
2001 – The Pavilion is beset with building problems and the family eventually bulldoze it and replace it with the Ramada Encore, which they still own and which is run by Jennie’s step-daughter and step son-in-law Zoe and Brendan Westwood.