Gold Mining and Hockey
Born in Cannock, Event Co-ordinator James Abey was whisked away to South Africa at the tender age of three. His parents responded to a newspaper ad for jobs in gold mining, promising good prospects as well as good weather …and they took the plunge!
Since that time James has enjoyed moving between South Africa and the UK several times, managing to fit in an array of activities that include working in a chicken factory, serving dinner to Gordon Strachan, managing a flagship style store in Johannesburg’s best district …
…and a mountain of sport. There he is at the age of just 16 with his hockey stick. You just can’t see the rollerblades!
Growing up in South Africa’s sunshine, James loved taking part in sports activities pretty much every day. And it does sound idyllic to finish school at 1.45pm, nip home for lunch and then go back to school to join in athletics, cricket, rugby or golf!
At the age of just 15, James represented his county for rollerblade hockey in both the Under 18 and Under 21 categories! He even had the opportunity to be part of a cricket tour to England in his final year, 1998, playing at schools in Taunton, Newcastle, London and Birmingham.
Chickens and Gordon Strachan
When he was 17, James came to England with a couple of friends for two years. They worked at a chicken factory(!!) near Norwich for a year before moving near Stratford-on-Avon to the 4* Stratford Manor Hotel. Spending eight months as waiters there, James’s claim to fame was serving football legend Gordon Strachan at his son’s wedding reception.
Back in South Africa to begin a 2-year Sports Management degree in January 2001, James was planning a career in sports teaching. With no jobs available, however, he had to change plans and joined Due South, a new, high-end, shop for outdoor clothing and kit.
During his four years with them he went from retail assistant to manager of his dream, flagship store in Sandton City – probably the best area of Johannesburg.
Back Operation and Edinburgh
In the background James was still enjoying rollerblade hockey, although a series of back injuries from the age of 20 led to a major operation in 2007 … and some forced time away from work, when the idea struck of travelling once again.
It was a childhood friend who suggested Edinburgh as a first port of call because that’s where he was living. That August, just weeks after James arrived, he came into the venue to help out for the day with buffets, teas & coffees and showing delegates to rooms. A couple of months later and James was still here! And indeed he stayed until November 2013.
James left the venue to work for MITIE at RBS’s Gogarburn offices but two years later he saw a sales position back here at the venue and the rest, as they say history. He is loving it on the sales front and is enjoying the advantage he has of knowing how the operational side works best for clients in the venue.
He is still pretty sporty, enjoying golf when the weather’s decent enough and playing cricket for a Bathgate team in the Scottish 2nd division. He also has two very young boys keeping him busy!
And despite having spent more than half his life in South Africa, James feels more British than South African, always supporting a UK team rather than South Africa in sport!