Mr Frank Bell

An Extraordinary Gentleman


Frank Bell was born on 30th December 1932 in the Gorbals, Glasgow. Tragedy struck early when his mother, Agnes, died when he was 5 years old. Together with his father and two younger siblings, Tommy and Mary, Frank moved in with his Uncle Sam to share a ‘room and kitchen’ where they were now 11. There was not enough room for them all to eat at the dining table so Frank became adept at eating at the mantlepiece, standing up. To the end of his life Frank would reminisce about those days and express gratitude years on to Sam and his family for this act of kindness.

The Early Years

Frank’s Father Tommy eventually remarried and the family grew to include a new step mother, Margaret and step-brother, William.


On Frank’s first day as an electrical trainee at John Browns his parents gave him a brand new set of overalls to wear. He set off for work full of enthusiasm only to discover when he arrived that the other men were playing cards and getting no work done; when Frank saw what was going on he immediately handed in his notice. It shows the strength of his belief in hard work that he knew such an environment was not for him. On the bus home Frank was more worried about what his Mum would say about the cost of the overalls than the job. Luckily his father got him another job, this time as an apprentice chef at the Old Grand Hotel in Charing Cross in Glasgow, where he was Head Waiter.


Frank showed early signs of the entrepreneur he was to become when he started a small after-work business recruiting other young chefs to work holiday cover for restaurants. Keen to learn, his flair for management was developed further by a stint with the RAF as a catering instructor, a stretch in London’s West End, a stay in Lyons in France, and a spell on the high seas with Cunard before finally ending up in command of catering at Ford car factories in Britain.


Frank’s early years were full of sport: he was a keen cyclist, a dedicated runner and an avid golfer. As a young man he would think nothing of cycling 100 miles in a day and in his later years could be seen out jogging most evenings with his beloved collie at his heels. Frank was zestfully competitive and never happier than when engaged on a bet on a sporting contest. Using his City contacts he raised thousands of pounds for charity as a marathon runner.


In addition Frank was a keen dancer and it was on the dance floor he met Rena, a pharmacist. Rena was smart and beautiful and Frank was intensely proud of her. They married in 1959 and three boys Martin, Damian and and Gordon were born. Frank later described his motivation for starting business was to provide for his wife and young family. In June 1964 he took the plunge: with Rena’s steadfast support he gave up a secure job as General Manager Scotland with a large catering organisation, sold his car and started up. Castle View, then known as CCG, was run from a backroom office shared with his lawyer and partner, Hugh Workman. Frank was 30.

Growing The Company

Initially business was tough: the first contract took 6 months to arrive. But by the end of their first year the risk paid off when four contracts were secured and the company was launched. Following the North Sea oil boom in 1969, the opportunity arose to offer ‘complete hotel solutions’ for the new worker villages created by the petro-chemical industry. Castle View was quick to respond, providing not only catering but cleaning, admin, medical care, and even landscaping.


Frank had an eye for cost accounting and an unswerving belief in staff training: key attributes that enabled his company to forge ahead of the pack and produce cost-tailored services to the consistent quality standards demanded by large corporates. Soon he was offering facilities management to a string of blue chip clients including BP, Scottish Power, Citybank and the Inland Revenue. The boy from the Glasgow’s East End was rising in the world and though he thoroughly enjoyed Castle View’s acheivements, Frank was motivated by challenge more than any other factor.


Privatisation created further opportunities and the company moved into catering for schools, thereby doubling in size: over the next 20 years it grew to employ 8000 people at 1400 locations. By the millenium Castle View was operating internationally, with projects in Georgia, Russia, Kazakhstan and Tunisia. Castle View became a group of companies specialising in outsourcing with interests in facilities management, food service and supply. Though by now heading up a major operation Frank remained engagingly forthright and friendly in his personal style with a capacity to engage with people from all walks of life whether business dynamos or dinner ladies.


In his seventies and at an age when most people would be considering retirement, Frank was planning something new. Throughout his life, Frank invested a great deal in his personal fitness. In 2000 he bought Sports and Leisure Management, a social enterprise running over leisure facilities for borough councils. Frank supported the leadership of the company to rebrand as Everyone Active in 2007 to align more closely with the social agenda for health. The result was a final triumph as SLM’s team converted this to a leap in growth inside two years. The contribution of Everyone Active, which brings jobs, health, activity and fun to millions each year is a source of pride to everyone at SLM and gave Frank immense satisfaction.


Around this time Frank started to gradually hand over the day to day running of the company to his sons Martin and Damian and, latterly, Martin took over running the group which continues to be a privately run family business. Within two years Frank succumbed to cancer, passing away in 2011 surrounded by his wife, children and grandchildren.

Towards the end of his life when one of his grandchildren asked for the secret of his success Frank’s reply showed his remarkable acumen, warmth and modesty:

“Work with people who are smarter than you are”

Frank Bell, 1932 – 2011

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