Raising a glass to toastmaster

Retired toastmaster John Herdman
Retired toastmaster John Herdman
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He worked as a toastmaster for more than 50 years, meeting everyone from popstars to Prime Ministers

John Herdman, who formerly served as general manager of the Imperial Hotel, on the Promenade, returned there as friends and colleague paid tribute to his career as a renonwed organiser of the proceedings of formal events at a surprise party.

During his time as both toastmaster and hotel manager he met Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and James Callaghan, as well as opposition leders Neil Kinnock and Michael Foot.

Popstar Elton John and television personality Michael Parkinson are among those John has greeted over the years.

He said: “Mrs Thatcher was a perfect lady in normal life.

“She was always polite to anybody.

“She was politeness itself and she treated everybody the same, Neil Kinnock was the same.

“I’ve got 21 albums full of people I’ve met, I’ve been very lucky.”

John, 85, attended his final meeting as chairman of the Northern Guild of Toastmasters, which he founded in the resort 29 years ago, before the unexpected surprise.

His colleagues told him they would be going for a celebratory fish and chip supper after the meeting, but isntead he was treated to buglers, Indian dancing and a comedian at the Imperial.

John, from Grasmere Road, South Shore, said: “I was expecting a fish and chip supper so it was the best kept secret, I was absolutely gobsmacked.

“It’s always a difficult decision to make to retire from anything and I’ve been a toastmaster for many years.”

Toastmasters are popular at events such as weddings and banquets.

A former submariner, John believes the sense of discipline instilled in him by the Navy has allowed the Guild to flourish, and it now boasts 50 members from across the north of England.

He said: “It’s been built up Navy-style by a team and it’s worked. They’re a wonderful bunch of people looking after their clients and caring for them.

“I’m going to still enjoy going to their meetings and functions for many years so I’m still part of it, but not in an active situation any more.

“I’m leaving it on a good footing run by a good group.”

Guests at the reception included the Mayor of Blackpool, Coun Val Haynes, and the Bishop of Lancaster.

Fellow toastmaster Peter Aust, who helped organise the surprise party, said: “The night went really well, it was fantastic and a big success.”