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Howard Digby-Johns

Howard Digby-Johns is the larger-than-life owner and landlord of the Green Man English pub and restaurant in Chalong, as well as a gourmand, wine lover, thespian, history buff and Egyptologist… in fact a man of many parts!

June 2014

Where are you from?
I grew up and went to school in the famous English naval city of Plymouth in Devon and then to the University of Surrey from 1964 to 1969, studying Hotel Management.

When did you first visit Phuket?
I first came to Phuket about 20 years ago to scuba dive. I discovered Mom Tri’s Boathouse, which I thought was wonderful and so started staying there each time that I took a break in Phuket from my work around the region.

Why did you move to Phuket?
My career involved business consultancy working around the world for Price Waterhouse. Specifically, I became the World Firm Partner responsible for Central America, the West Indies, Africa and India and so I was looking for a base in which to live while I travelled extensively doing my job. I looked at Goa and the Windies, but Phuket seemed to offer the most wonderful lifestyle and at great value too, so I opted to make it my home.

While I loved staying at the Boathouse, I decided to buy a house in Phuket in 1997 and I still live there.

Tell us how The Green Man came into being
When Price Waterhouse merged with Coopers and Lybrand in 2001, I decided to take a ‘golden handshake’ and retire from the company. I had always thought that Phuket ought to have the sort of English-style country pub for local residents in which I personally would like to drink. So with my partner Khun Nui, we found a great piece of land at the base of Kata Hill and decided to build our own faux-Tudor pub and restaurant there.

Why did you call it The Green Man?
I've always been interested in cultural and religious history and had discovered the Pagan God known as ‘The Green Man’ many years before. He's the embodiment of re-birth and fertility and is celebrated with dancing around the May-Pole (in fact a huge phallic symbol) on May 1st every year. I decided to open The Green Man pub on May 1st 2001.

The Green Man is the God of uncontrolled nature and he's the one in charge of your being, when your conscious mind is not. I thought that was an appropriate emblem for our pub as, after enjoying a few ales, one may not be as in control as normal and so The Green Man takes over your being!

I also built a replica of an Egyptian temple behind the pub; I spent several years in Egypt studying its history and various cartouches that are replicated on the temple walls. We use the temple for various meetings, including that of a Phuket Masonic chapter, of which I am currently the Master. We also stage theatrical events, such as our famous Kiddies’ Pantomime each Boxing Day on the stage, which we added into the temple.

How does doing business in Phuket compare with other places?
The tremendous thing about doing business here is the great freedom one has to try anything. Here we're largely untrammeled by rules and regulations, unlike in the west, and so you don’t have to worry about the government and bureaucracy being a ‘partner’ in your life.

I've never found anywhere freer in which to do business in all my extensive travels. Of course, there are negatives, but if you enjoy the business freedom of Phuket, then you shouldn’t whine about the lack of rules and law enforcement. But on balance, it's a great place to do business.

Do you have family with you?
Khun Nui and I have been together now for 15 years and I have two daughters and a son from previous relationships. Two of my kids are grown up and settled in relationships and good jobs, and my youngest daughter Vikki, who starred in the pantomime on stage at The Green Man a few years ago, is pursuing Film Studies in London.

What car do you drive?
I used to have a BMW, but recently we traded it in for the 'Battle Wagon’ – a Suzuki van that we can use to carry all the shopping back from Makro!

What social activities and charities are you involved with?
In addition to Freemasonry, I attend the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs dining events. But the pub is our main social life, with weekly wine tastings, quizzes, salsa dancing and singing practices. Then there's our Saint George Evening and Burn’s Night and various theatrical events.

How do you evaluate success?
I've found myself to be extremely happy recently and I think it’s because I keep busy doing something that I very much enjoy… running The Green Man. I'm now in my sixties and I think it’s a privilege to still be occupied with work and dealing with people that one enjoys.

What do you think the future holds for you?
I'm currently writing two books; one is a sort of history of the world in seven separate books, with chapters written by ‘voices’ from the past such as Karl Marx and King Solomon. I'm also writing my memoires of being a consultant all over the globe. As I'm still doing some overseas consultancy assignments, this latter book won’t be published until I finally retire from that sort of work – because it ‘pulls no punches’ about the consultancy business!

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