“I NEVER thought I’d get the chance to rise to become a general manager and now that I have, as cheesy as it may sound, I have to say I absolutely love my job.”
So said Morag Stark this week, talking about her position as general manager at the Macdonald Cardrona Hotel and Golf Course in Peeblesshire.
Former Peebles High School pupil Morag joined the hotel six years ago when she took up the job of executive housekeeper.
She became general manager in September after two years as hotel manager and says it was her experience of management duties that gave her a taste for life at the top level.
“When I came here I had to take my turn on duty manager shifts and really got a taste for a management role,” explained Morag, who has a degree in home economics from Robert Gordon’s University in Aberdeen.
After graduation, she joined the NHS as a management trainee and worked for the organisation from 1986 until 1992, spending time at the old Peel Hospital and its successor, the Borders General Hospital.
There followed a stint as domestic bursar at Queen Maragret College in Edinburgh and then she was approached by the then manager of the Peebles Hotel Hydro, Pieter van Dijk.
“Peter asked me to become the Hydro’s executive housekeeper and I jumped at the chance. With a five-year-old son, the chance to work and live in my home town, where my parents still live, was fantastic.
“It gave me a chance to get a proper work/life balance.”
And Morag believes being a local person has given her a major boost when it comes to running one of the region’s most successful hotels.
“Without a doubt, being a native of this area helps me every day in my job. We have a great team here at the hotel, with a good mix of local employees and those from further afield, including live-in staff from South Africa, Spain, Hungary and China.
“But I would certainly like to hire even more local staff if I could. Having extensive local knowledge is something our guests really appreciate.”
The local link even helped Morag originally get started at the hotel, as the hotel’s executive chef, a former high school pal, Ivor Clark, who tipped Morag off that there was a job available.
And she admits that the one thing that drives her on to ensure the Macdonald Cardona Hotel and Golf Course continutes to build on its reputation is the fact that she and her family have to live in the area.
“I want to be able to walk along Peebles High Street with my family, or for my parents to walk along it, with our heads held high.
“That is very important to me.”
One way Morag is hoping to grow the hotel’s success is through the wedding market.
“We really broke into the wedding market in 2009, when we hosted 35 weddings. Last year we managed 25 and I really want to see that figure increased.
“I also want us to be targetting conferences such as the police superintendents’ annual event and so on.”
With upwards of 550 members of its leisure club and 190 in its golf club, the hotel has become firmly established since it was opened by the Duke of Edinburgh in 2004.
Morag, who is married and has a 22-year-old son, Frazer, currently in his second year’s training to be an army officer at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, is the hotel’s sixth general manager.
“We have quite a settled team here, which is quite unusual in the hospitality industry where there is often a high turnover of staff.
“We have a real family feel about our team and that makes working here a tremendous experience.”