More than 40 people attended a reunion at the Old Hall Hotel on Thursday, which was planned to coincide with the ongoing £50m redevelopment of the town’s historic Crescent to help preserve the history of the building through the people who once worked and socialised there.
Organiser Chris Drews said: “A hotel is like a community. People worked in different departments in different years and we all have different memories, but we are all united by our relationship with St Ann’s Hotel.”
Brian Bunce, who was the manager of the hotel between 1979 and 1982, said it was the first time he had seen some faces in 30 years.
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Recalling the night-time entertainment in the bar, he said: “There was a live-in pianist called Molly who played every night, although when she was tired she would play awfully just to empty the bar.”
Leslie Wood was a chef at St Ann’s between 1966 and 1967 and went on to marry waitress Jean in July 1967. The couple held their wedding reception at the hotel.
He said: “When I was cooking it was very different. The menus were much simpler, soup or prawn cocktail to start, Steak Diane and Black Forest Gateaux.
“Coach parties were our bread and butter and on busy nights there would be four coach parties of about 200 people, all wanting to eat.”
Frank Matherson was the manager on duty for Leslie and Jean’s wedding. The 85-year-old said: “I was only at the hotel from January 1967 until August of the same year but I remember the Woods and their wedding and it has been so nice to see them again.”
He recalled: “One day when I went into the kitchen, the chefs were standing in inches of water. It was the water coming up from the springs and it was apparently a regular occurrence.”
The day of the reunion marked 32 years of marriage for Anthony and Sue Waldron, who had their wedding reception in St Ann’s and were presented with flowers to mark the day. Sue said: “It was the place to be at the time and was so grandly decorated - I remember the wallpaper behind where we sat was hand-painted silk.” John Murphy worked at the hotel in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He travelled over from Ireland when he was just 16-years-old, and got his two brothers Brian and Colin jobs.
He recalled how they used to fill their time between shifts: “We all used to live in the hotel on the top floor and when the weather was nice we used to climb out of the window, up onto the roof and sunbathe and watch people on The Slopes.”
Liz Mackenzie, engagement and events manager for the Crescent development, said: “I am delighted so many people came along and shared memories, and we will be working will volunteers from our oral history project to ensure that as the Crescent moves forward we never forget its past.”