My First Job - Paul O'Hanlon, the Black Swan in Helmsley
PUBLISHED: 10:43 16 April 2013 | UPDATED: 10:43 16 April 2013
Paul O'Hanlon, general manager of the Black Swan in Helmsley, talks about winging his way to Yorkshire
I was as a joiner with Sammy Millar Construction in my hometown of Ballymena in Northern Ireland. My creative flare meant that joinery was something that really interested me. In my spare time, to earn a bit more money, I also worked in a bar/restaurant.
For a long time, I also considered following in my father’s footstep and joining the police.
What lessons did it teach you?
It taught me that it never does you any harm to get your hands dirty. I really enjoyed working in the construction industry but, through my part-time bar and restaurant work, I also found I had a natural talent when it came to meeting people and talking to the public. Eventually I realised a career in the hospitality industry might suit me more.
How has your career progressed?
After leaving construction, I worked in a hotel called the Londonderry Arms as assistant manager. It’s a historic hotel situated in the picturesque Glens of Antrim in the small coastal village of Carnlough on the award-winning Antrim Coast Road, which forms a core part of the Causeway Coastal Route. This gave me a really good grounding for when I eventually went on to run and own the family pub, O’Hanlon’s in Ballymena – a great place for live music, entertainment and plenty of craik!
I then took over as hospitality and operations manager at one of Ireland’s top hotels, Galgorm Resort & Spa. I worked there for five years and really enjoyed it. But, in November 2011, an opportunity arose to take on the role of general manager at the Black Swan in Helmsley and I was North Yorkshire-bound.
What do you enjoy about your job now?
One of the best things about working at the Black Swan is the staff. They make my job an easy one, which makes it a very happy place to work. I’m a very hands-on manager; I don’t like to sit behind a desk and I’m generally found walking around the hotel chatting to guests and making sure that everything is as they like it. I’ve worn out many pairs of shoes since I’ve been here.
I feel very lucky to be here as it’s such an iconic hotel which is known across the world.
What’s next for you?
The hotel was once the flagship hotel of Rocco Forte. My aim is to bring it back to what it was then – then make it even better. I’m very happy living in North Yorkshire and I’d like to think I’ll be managing the Black Swan Hotel for many more years to come.
What advice would you give?
You’ve got to work in a job that you love. You spend so much time at work that a career in an industry you’re passionate about makes life a lot easier and happier.