Stylish Welshman Alan settled in Cork after working for Saudi royal family and dancing with Shirley Bassey

Sarah Horgan talks to Welshman Alan Jones, who came to Cork on what was initially meant to be a two-week holiday and ended up staying for good
Stylish Welshman Alan settled in Cork after working for Saudi royal family and dancing with Shirley Bassey

Alan Jones has led a colourful life as a back up dancer to the stars and interior designer for the royal family.

NOT everyone can boast their grandad was both a backup dancer for Shirley Bassey and interior designer for the Saudi Arabian royal family.

However, Alan Jones, who lives in Cork city, isn’t your average pensioner.

The Welsh native, who made Cork his home around 12 years ago opened up about his colourful former career in an interview with the Echo.

His decade-long role as an interior designer for the Saudi Arabian Royal family was among the many topics up for discussion.

Mr Jones spoke about how he would travel the world on a regular basis to transform rooms to fit the varied cultural tastes of people visiting their home.

“There could be kings or presidents coming to visit from any part of the world,” Alan said.

 “I would travel to countries like Russia to source Russian wallpapers and columns to put into the room. They wanted to entertain and the decor had to fit whatever country that person was from.”

He confessed that the job wasn’t always glamorous and came with a lot of tension.

“If you paint your own lounge or front room at home you tend to stand back and look at it,” he said. 

“It was the same satisfaction for me when I was doing the job-a kind of satisfaction that’s hard to explain.

“At the same time, it was a tense moment because they were quite finicky people. I used to think to myself ‘I wonder if they’ll be pleased.’ I found that if you stuck to the country enough you never really went wrong.”

Alan’s favourite part of the job was the opportunities it presented to see the world.

‘They had big lounges in their private planes,” he said of the royals. “You had a big menu with so many choices. I could have chosen caviar if I wanted. They also had accounts in hotels all over the world where I had the opportunity to stay.”

Alan’s time abroad involved extensive research.

“I’d go around the buildings and have a look to see what the interiors were like. Anything they had I just followed suit. Whether it was a king or a president who was visiting I did my job and got out and they had their meetings accordingly. Their entourages were huge and I never got to meet the people who were coming to visit.”

DANCING ALL OVER THE WORLD

The job was in stark contrast to his time as a backing dancer with singers like Shirley Bassey.

“I was a backing dancer for Cilla Black, Dusty Springfield and Shirley Bassey. While Shirley Bassey was hard on the other dancers she was never hard on me. I think this was because we were from the same place and she knew my uncle George. The others always joked that all “us Welsh stick together” and that’s why she treated me well. When you saw her in person and close up, Shirley Bassey was the most stunning woman you have ever seen in your life. You work with singers who have so many changes done to themselves over the years but she was always beautiful.”

The former male model said that Cilla Black was particularly special.

Alan Jones has led a colourful life as a back up dancer to the stars and interior designer for the royal family.
Alan Jones has led a colourful life as a back up dancer to the stars and interior designer for the royal family.

“Cilla Black was a gorgeous person and very down to earth. We used to have so much fun with Dusty Springfield.

“I was just a young man then and they were only becoming famous, but I tell you those girls worked hard.”

He described how he and Cilla shared a unique fashion sense.

“I have one outfit that’s an Italian police outfit and another that’s a Russian army outfit,” he said. “Everything I source is unique and one of a kind.

“If I go into a shop I’ll only buy an outfit if it’s the only one of its kind. Not everyone tells the truth, however. It happened to me once in Knightsbridge. I was promised that a cardigan I bought was the only one and that only one of each clothing item was imported from Japan.

“Afterwards, I saw Cilla Black wearing that same cardigan on television. It didn’t hurt so much because it was her. I knew at the time that Cilla never wore the same outfit twice.”

Alan added that it’s only recently - since his grandson was born - that he’s started listening to Cilla Black again.

“I have a seven-month-old grandson named Alfie so I’ve been listening to the song by Cilla Black of the same name non-stop for eight months now.”

The father-of-three puts his reason for moving to Ireland down to a quirk of fate.

“I had started a fish pedicure business in Spain but when the craze died I became bankrupt,” he said. 

“Things weren’t going too well for me when a friend of mine - Jerry from Cork - handed me an envelope. There was a plane ticket to Cork inside. I remember him saying “you will love them and they will love you.” That’s exactly how it played out.

“I came here on what was initially meant to be a two-week holiday and ended up staying for good.”

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