Legendary hotelier George Goring OBE FIH has died aged 81.
“George was a great hotelier in the old school style: a true host who exuded joie de vivre. Anybody who worked for him, or was his guest or friend, would know about his extraordinary generosity.
George took over the Goring Hotel in the late 1960s and refurbished it from top to bottom, earning it the coveted AA five red stars. He was awarded an OBE for services to hotel keeping in 1991, and voted Hotelier of the Year in 1990. George was also a founder and chairman of Pride of Britain Hotels, and chairman of the Master Innholders. In 2010 he was awarded the AA lifetime achievement Award.
His charming and fun persona made it easy to forget his business sense. He guided the Goring Hotel through recessions and oil crises, putting it on the map as one of London’s very best hotels. He resisted gimmicks and discounting, ensuring that The Goring built a lasting and enviable reputation for excellent service. But he also made it a joyful place to be, engendering a loyalty from both staff and guests that is almost unique in today’s international hotel scene. Staff members at The Goring have always felt like family, which is why there are many with over 20 years service and some with 40 and 50.
His family were of East German origin with his grandpa Otto deserting the coal trade in Dresden to become a chef in England. His parents were, on the surface, quite dry and strict and George’s upbringing was a reflection of this. His sparkle and generous spirit were all the more surprising for it, and for the Dickensian schooling that he and twin brother Richard received. Known as Goring 1 and Goring 2, they were caned weekly but shared punishments out equally regardless of who was the transgressor; nobody could tell them apart.
In the 1960’s he was living in St Ives as a junior manager at the Tregenna Castle, where he met his wife Penny who ran the riding school over the road. Penny’s mother Bessie did not approve; Cornish didn’t marry ”foreigners”. But somehow they made it work for more than fifty years. George embraced Cornwall and the children spent their early years there.
His second career involved horses; in particular cross country racing with his team the Boring Gorings. He was also a successful amateur jockey, competing in the world’s mot dangerous horse race, the Gran Pardubice in the former Czechoslovakia. The Czech racing fans held him and is team as national heros and filled his horse lorry with 50 cases of Pilsner beer after he finished ahead of all the Russian generals. That beer lasted the family for many years. Horse and Hound magazine listed him in top fifty horsemen of all time.
He also made time to get out on his deadly boat, a 22 foot navy rigid inflatable called Bugsy Malone. Over a 35 year period Bugsy regularly made the trip from Padstow round Land’s End and Cape Finisterre to Western Europe including San Sebastian, various Breton Islands and Lisbon. French, Irish and Spanish harbourmasters often held their hands up in disbleief that such a comical open boat had arrived from Cornwall. The list of injured crew members is extensive, and because there were a number of lifeboatmen in the family George felt obliged to make regular and generous contributions to the RNLI. He got his money’s worth; Bugsy split in half 20 miles off Brest, ejecting all crew, he sank off Pointe du Raz, and his son in law was airlifted mid channel with a broken back, among other incidents.
He shot neighbours’ dogs and burglar alarms, injured many play mates, told his horse trainer he’d send the horse to the sausage factory, and often led cross country team mates into grievous harm. But all these people loved him nevertheless. The gain (in laughter) usually outweighed the pain… just!
He gave up cross country racing aged 70, winning his last event by a distance. Over the previous 40 years he had broken most of the bones in his body and given this lifestyle nobody ever thought he would be around long enough to have Parkinson’s. Despite this cruel disease he radiated wit, charm and laughter till the end.
The lessons he left us were to love thy neighbour, and to live for today.
RIP Admiral, and as George would say: Toujours L’attaque!”
Obituary kindly provided by The Goring Hotel.