Now that he’s a published author, does Ron Welling have designs on John Grisham’s corporate thriller crown? Amy Duff meets him to find out
It’s been 15 years in the making, so it’s no wonder that Ron Welling is delighted to at last have his recently published novel The Price in his hands.
A passing comment by a local while he was holidaying in St Lucia gave him the idea for a book about trust, loyalty, bribery and fraud.
I had to wear an alarm. But tutoring was a rewarding experience; many of these people were in for drugs offences
He recalls, “We were walking along the beach and he said, ‘are you the commissioner of police?’ It triggered an idea that became the first two chapters of my book.” What it’s not is an accountant’s textbook.
Considering himself as more literate than numerate – he has two more unpublished novels under his belt – didn’t stop Welling from entering the accountancy profession as a young man. Encouraged by his father to become an accountant, he toiled for five years at Davie, Parsons (which became part of Deloitte) as a low-paid articled clerk.
“Training was hard; I was on £1 a week,” he says. “You lived at home, supported by your parents. I often wondered whether I’d done the right thing but I learnt about patience and hard graft.”
Welling only really started to enjoy it once he’d moved into commerce, “where I’ve been for pretty much the rest of my career”. He had a varied career as a financial director and chief executive, spanning 45 years in both large and medium-sized businesses, including GEC and Ford. He ended up in Jersey where he was asked “to sort out a business”.
Thinking he would be there for “about 18 months”, he is still there, almost 30 years later.
He has held a number of NED roles, and is currently on the board of an offshore bank and a jewellery business. He says he’s never been out of work.
“It’s been a smooth transition from here to there”, but nothing has been handed to him on a plate. “I’ve had to earn it”. This is why he’s enjoyed being able to give back.
Soon after he retired 10 years ago he saw an advert in the local paper from a prison inmate in Jersey who was doing business studies on a correspondence course and needed some help. Welling ended up going in twice a week for almost six years. “I had to wear an alarm and would get claustrophobic,” he explains.
“But tutoring was a rewarding experience; many of these people were in for drugs offences. There was a range of young people. That first chap got his A levels and came out and got a job.”
Since retiring he’s also helped raise £250,000 as chief fundraiser for the refurbishment of a 200-year-old chapel, has chaired the Rent Control Tribunal and still sits on an Education Appeals Panel, which he describes as emotive but interesting. But besides keeping busy with his five grandchildren, it’s the writing that’s his real passion.
“You need to write a book to learn how to write one and I have ideas for more fiction books. I started writing purely for enjoyment, not any burning ambition that I was going to become a John Grisham. It’s harder than I thought, but it’s been fun.”