When opportunity came calling

I had always yearned for career that would involve travel. This stemmed back to my very first job, at 18 years old, with a London-based importer/distributor of canned foods, rice and other bulk foodstuffs. My boss was one of the buyers who would travel to South Africa, Thailand, Argentina, Greece and Spain in search of the best deals, and I wanted his job badly. A few years later, I moved on and went into advertising sales, then telecommunications and marketing. However, I never stopped thinking about travelling abroad for work.

Apart from one two-day trip to Milan for an exhibition, all my business travel was firmly grounded in the UK. Highly motivated by a personal development book I read, I decided – not planned or hoped – that I would begin to travel abroad regularly for work the following year. The following February, a client asked me to go to Paris – OK, so it was by train but it was abroad. 

Then, one day, everything changed. The phone rang while I was working from home and an Australian-accented lady said,  “We’ve never met but I’ve been asking around and your name keeps coming up.” The call resulted in a meeting, followed by a trip to Jamaica for a pitch and, eventually, a contract. By the time we won another contract in Nigeria a year later, I was required to travel 12-15 times per year. 

When I first joined McCluskey International, it was my introduction to travel PR and the world of tourism marketing. My guide was a very experienced, well-connected and feisty Australian whose enthusiasm for her clients’ destinations knew no bounds. Judy became a friend and confidant, and we remained in touch long after we parted ways professionally, occasionally discussing projects that might bring us back together.

Our last chat was via email, just over a month ago. She was busy preparing to represent clients, such as India, the Chinese city of Hangzhou and The Maldives, at World Travel Market in London in early November. “Remember those days?” she wrote, playfully. Last night I learned that, barely three weeks later, Judy suffered a heart attack. A week after that, she gave up the fight. Sadly, she was dead for another week before I knew. 

Her call, all those years ago, opened up so many opportunities for me and I will always be grateful. My lasting memory of Judy McCluskey is the love she had for my home country of Jamaica. She wanted that account so badly and once it was acquired, she lived and breathed Jamaica – even taking all her vacations on the island. Her passion and enthusiasm rivalled mine. 

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend her memorial service in London next week but my thoughts will be with her daughter, Rachel, family and friends. I will miss her.

That Person is a Success

Who has lived well,

    laughed often and loved much;

Who has gained the respect of intelligent people

    and the love of children;

Who has filled his or her niche

    and accomplished his or her task;

Who leaves the world better than he or she found it,

    whether by improved poppy, a perfect poem,

    or a rescued soul;

Who never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty

    or failed to express it.

Who looked for the best in others

    and gave the best he or she had.


Robert Louis Stevenson


Judy McCluskey was agency principal of London-based travel and tourism PR and marketing consultancy McCluskey International which she founded in 1987. She passed away on 15th November 2016.

11 thoughts on “When opportunity came calling

  1. This was one lady that lived her life with passion. I recall the excitement surrounding your trip to Jamaica for the pitch to the Jamaica Tourist Board and how happy I was for you when you and the team won the account.

    What struck me those days was your intentionality. You decided, committed and acted. When opportunity came knocking you were ready and you haven’t stopped travelling since.

    I’ve adopted the same approach and even when adversity rocked me to the core, decision, commitment and action kept me steadfast to the dream which I am now living. We all need a ‘Judy’ in our lives – an inspirer, door opener, game changer – to show us what is possible when we live with passion. The trick is to recognise ‘her’ when she shows up.

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    1. This is very true, Paul. We all get opportunities but it’s either that we don’t recognise them, or we’re not sufficiently equipped or confident enough to take advantage of them. I find that it’s better to say ‘yes’ to life and decline later, than to give away chances that never return.

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  2. This was one lady that lived her life with passion. I recall the excitement surrounding your trip to Jamaica for the pitch to the Jamaica Tourist Board and how happy I was for you when you, Judy and the team won the account.

    What struck me those days was your intentionality. You decided, committed and acted. When opportunity came knocking you were ready and you haven’t stopped travelling since.

    I’ve adopted the same approach and even when adversity rocked me to the core, decision, commitment and action kept me steadfast to the dream which I am now living. We all need a ‘Judy’ in our lives – an inspirer, door opener, game changer – to show us what is possible when we live with passion. The trick is to recognise ‘her’ when she shows up.

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  3. I marvel at the crassness of people, especially men, who say they are self-made. It really makes one wonder if they implanted themselves in their mothers’ womb and took care of their needs personally from birth. We all need someone to either make that call to us or give us a recommendation or arrange our big break or . . .

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    1. That’s right, my brother, nobody succeeds on their own. Everyone has help along the way, from partners, investors, family, friends, clients and mentors. There have been so many people who have helped to shape my life, knowingly or unknowingly. Thanks for the support, as always.

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