In a centuries old ceremony, Stephen Gow, general manager of Aberdeen’s The Chester Hotel and Master Innholder, has been granted the Freedom of The City of London at the Guildhall in the city on Friday 21 October 2022, in recognition of his contribution to the hospitality industry. He joins others who have had the honour of the Freedom of the City award including Lord Nelson, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Florence Nightingale and Theodore Roosevelt.
A Fellow of the Institute of Hospitality, Stephen has spent his entire career in the hospitality sector, beginning at the age of 18 as a management trainee at the North British Station Hotel in Edinburgh; now called The Balmoral.
Throughout his career he has actively sought to work with others in the industry to combine and share collective learnings for the good of the sector. He remains keen to support and nurture talent in the workplace and to encourage a new generation into a career in hospitality. He was instrumental in the creation of Hospitality Apprenticeship North East and chairs this industry-led initiative.
He was a founding director of destination management organisation VisitAberdeen and is also current vice chair and past chair of Aberdeen City and Shire Hotel’s Association. He held the same post in the Inverness Hotel’s Association. He is chairman of Aberdeen City and Shire Tourism Awards which take place on 11 November this year.
Stephen says, “Receiving the Freedom of the City of London is a very special honour, and I am grateful to the Master Innholders and the institute of Hospitality in gaining this. It is a privilege to join the many outstanding men and women who hold this prestigious title.”
The tradition of the award goes back centuries, with the first presentation believed to have taken place in 1237. The Freedom is completed on vellum by calligraphers and comes with a replica of the red leather pouch in which it was kept protecting it, as the recipient had to have it with them at all times to claim privileges. The original privileges included the right to earn money and own land, the right to trade in the Square Mile in the City of London and, famously, to enable the freeman to take their sheep over London Bridge with no toll.
Freemen also had the right to be hung with a silk rope if they committed murder or treason and could wander the streets of the city with their sword drawn. Freemen were also exempt from being press ganged, and, if drunk and disorderly, could request that the police gave him safe passage home. Nowadays the Freedom is seen as a tool for recognising the achievements of individuals in different fields which have made a significant impact. From the early 18th century to this day, recipients are also presented with a book – “The Rules For The Conduct Of Life” to be lived by.
The rules include:
Rule III: “Let the end you aim at be always good.”
Rule XXI: “Engage yourself in no more business than what you find yourself able to go through with.”
Rule XXIV: “If very much business unavoidably comes at once upon you, be not discouraged, for that will make you negligent; but consider how to put it in the best order, that one thing may be done after another, or without one hindering another.”
Rule XXX: “Take some proper times to relax your thoughts from business, that you may be better able to return to it.”