Former Rydal Penrhos pupil Dominic Jones was recently appointed CEO of The Mary Rose Trust.
Dominic Jones, who attended Rydal Penrhos from 1985-1995, was recently appointed Chief Executive Officer of The Mary Rose Trust, which is an independent charity with the objective of caring for and share to as wide an audience as possible the stories of the famous ship and her crew.
Mr Jones was kind enough to give up his time to take part in a special interview detailing his memories of Rydal Penrhos, his time in the working world and what his objectives are in his new role.
An Interview with Dominic Jones (RS 1984-95)
What are your memories of school?
I have such fond memories of my time at school, for me it was very much my childhood. My Dad used to teach here before he passed away and after he died my Mum taught at the Prep School so Rydal was my childhood. I made some amazing friends whilst at Rydal, many with whom I am still in contact today but others with whom I have lost touch but would love to hear from again.
I was an active member of the School being in the Orchestra, the choir, the Cross-Country team, the Alpine Expeditions, Duke of Edinburgh and even ran the School book shop for a while at a time before Amazon and online retail when we had to go down to West End Books in Colwyn Bay and negotiate a decent commission and profit margin and supplemented the revenue with CDs, Posters, T-shirts and Videos.
I remember along with some of my good friends barging in the headmaster’s office one day (Mr Thorne) to tell him that we as part of the Rag committee had an idea called “the big shave” where we were going to sponsor him and various other staff members to shave their beard, moustaches etc. for charity to raise funds for a community project in Liverpool the school supported.
What did you do at school A Level wise?
Business Studies, French and Geography.
Then where did you go to university?
I went to Swansea Metropolitan University which I think is now called the University of Wales Trinity St David. Despite having enough points to do a BA in Bournemouth University and UWE I chose to go and do a HND in Swansea. I chose this as I had a dream of being an Outdoor Activity Centre Manager, similar to Plas y Brenin which the school used to visit.
Swansea was the one course that offered lots of placement opportunities including Summers at PGL Adventure so thought that would help me with my Career. Little did I realise my head would be turned and I would end up staying to do a full BA Hons Degree and meet my wife and following my initial PGL placement, go on to do a placement in Disney World Florida and Thorpe Park, falling in love with the Visitor Attraction world.
How did you set off on your career path post-university?? Was it a graduate scheme or….?
Graduate Schemes didn’t really exist (although I have been a big ambassador of these in my career and still mentor those, I have worked with on various schemes today). I went to work at Thorpe Park as a Ride Operator and quickly got promoted to Supervisor in 3 weeks and then Co-ordinator and eventually a Ride Area Manager before transferring to Chessington World of Adventures and then moving to Madame Tussauds in London to be Customer Services Manager.
When I think back to those days, I couldn’t be prouder of getting stuck into work and doing the unpopular shifts and projects as I was determined to become a General Manager one day. I remember often thinking about the lessons I learned from Mr Matthews and Mr Farnell in Business Studies and using them to my advantage at work. I realised if I was to become a General Manager, I needed to get more experience and needed Sales and Marketing. So I left Madame Tussauds and went to work for Virgin Atlantic.
Not only did we get cheap first-class flights, but I learnt to be a leader here and moved up the ranks from Reservations Manager to Sales Manager to Vice President EMEA and my final role was Regional Vice President Sales APAC for the Cargo division living in Hong Kong. I remember thinking of all the pupils at School who came from Hong Kong and even bumped into a few of my old school friends in the upper-class lounge on Virgin Atlantic from time to time.
Having a family of my own meant moving home to the UK and I managed Oakwood Theme Park and did a second stint at Thorpe Park. I bumped into more Rydal connections in West Wales when we did a deal with the Scarlets rugby team and met Andrew Fenby who was an Old Rydalian. I then moved to Christchurch and ran the various Sea Life’s, Dungeons and Madame Tussauds in Europe for Merlin Entertainments, which was an amazing job and although I wasn’t the General Manager, I actually managed the General Managers it was like coming home. I also worked for the third time at Thorpe Park this time as Divisional Director running the resort, the hotel and the theme park for Merlin Entertainments.
I actually was on a zoom call recently with a friend from school who reminded me I told him I wanted to run a theme park when I was at school in Geography class.
I then moved to the Mary Rose in Portsmouth as the Chief Operating Officer with a clear brief of negotiating a deal with the National Museum of the Royal Navy to ensure we had a single destination offering for Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
Are there attributes/skills that Rydal gave you that helped you on your meteoric career path?
Ha, meteoric! It certainly doesn’t feel like that, it was a lot of hard work and many ups and downs along the way. I do however think School helped to make me the person I am today. I recall being at Rydal for the centenary as a young 5 or 6 year old and thinking how special it is to be part of something as great as this. I learnt how to make friends, how to network and how to speak and present publicly. There were times when Rydal helped me face my fears and believe in myself and couldn’t have asked for a better grounding and start in life.
From negotiations with Presidents and senior politicians in Africa or to flying to New York to meet the French Connection Team and sort out logistics issues in New York when I worked for Virgin. The ability to make conversations, to debate and to give compelling arguments all came from experience learnt at School.
I often relied on skills and knowledge gained at school. I even managed to negotiate a dispute between French biologists when bringing Penguins to Sea Life Paris using my French language skills learnt at School and recently was able to put my History knowledge into use when I hosted a school’s tour of the Mary Rose.
Did particular staff at school influence you in a positive way and if yes why?
I guess the question is did any school staff NOT influence me. I think in a way they all did. I spent the majority of my childhood at the School and saw two headmasters arrive and leave and various deputy heads and other teaches. I learnt to run with Mrs Harding and get passionate about the environment, I learnt to understand business and how to sell from Mr Matthews and Mr Farnell, the late Mr Maple taught me how to be a good person and focus on values and self-worth. However, they are but a fe2. In a way every teacher made a difference to me. Also, at the Prep School with Mr and Mrs Bradley and Mr and Mrs Mather and Mr Roberts who played a major role in my early development.
What will your new position entail?
At the end of March, I take up the position of CEO of the Mary Rose Trust and will be responsible for Henry VIII’s iconic warship the Mary Rose.
There is nowhere else on earth you can get as close to Tudor England as the Mary Rose. We have over 19,000 genuine Tudor Artefacts and can tell exactly what life was like in the Tudor Times, more than any other museum, palace or estate. The Mary Rose excavation and raising in 1982 is still to date the world’s biggest Maritime Salvation project. We practically invented the modern maritime archaeology manual.
I still get goosebumps when I enter the ship hall and see the Mary Rose in all her glory. I will also remain a Director of Portsmouth Historic Dockyard Operations Ltd and help to run the Historic Dockyard.
There is still so much work to be done, we still have the wreck site to care for and even have more artefacts on the seabed which would be amazing to bring to the surface and the museum one day.
We, like every museum or business right now, need to become a sustainable business and maintain the collection at the heart of what we do. I am also keen to inspire the next generation and get the Mary Rose back to her Iconic Status as one of the greatest museums and collections in the World.
So, I have my work cut out for me.
Have you any further goals for the future?
I have three amazing children and a wonderful wife I am keen to spend more time with them and also giving back to the community. I volunteer for the local round table (following my Rydal Rag days) and have recently become a school governor of a local school in Christchurch.
I take an active interest in many of the people I have managed, coached and mentored throughout my career and always enjoy celebrating their successes and working through any challenge and opportunities they face.
The next 5 years for me are all about the Mary Rose, but afterwards, who knows, as I learnt at Rydal, the world is a massive opportunity if you are prepared to step into it and explore. I want to stay in the Museum, Heritage and Visitor Attraction world, but for now, I have plenty of work to do with the Mary Rose and taking care of her and her collection for the nation.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Yes please, the challenges Covid has brought to the museums, art galleries and heritage sites are devastating and I would urge everyone to try and come and visit the Mary Rose when we reopen, and if they can’t get to Portsmouth then try and support their local museums or heritage attractions as they all need help right now.
Anyone wishing to enquire about Rydal Penrhos School can do so by calling 01492 530155, email firstname.lastname@example.org or register your interest online here: https://rydalpenrhos.com/admissions/apply-now.