The Old Royal Naval College (ORNC) employs a hundred members of staff from front of house, facilities management, communications, administration, fundraising to learning.



Brendan McCarthy, Chief Executive

Brendan McCarthy joined as Chief Executive in 2012 following a long career in the National Trust where he was a Regional Director.

He studied Rural Estate Management at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, qualifying as a Chartered Surveyor, and has spent many enjoyable years seeking the balance between great conservation of historic property and landscape, optimum public access and financial sustainability – something he is still pursuing!

Over the years he has also been involved in helping to develop conservation policies in various parts of Europe, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand and Bermuda.

He chairs the Executive Group of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site, is a member of the WHS Steering Group and a non-executive Director of Visit Greenwich Destination Management Company.  He is also a Trustee of the National Trust Pension Fund.

In his spare time, he enjoys the countryside, gardens, art and architecture and travel.  He cycles frequently, loves mountain walking and skiing as well as tinkering with an old sports car.  He is married with two grown up sons and lives in the Cotswolds and Greenwich.



Mary Ellen Cetra, Development & Communications Director

After a successful career working within British and American media organisations, Mary Ellen discovered her true professional calling after launching a children’s film festival at the Barbican in 2002. Passionate about funding for the cultural sector she arrived at The Courtauld Institute of Art in 2004 where she remained for 9 years, becoming Head of Philanthropic Gifts and Sponsorship. During that time she raised over £4 million pounds primarily for The Courtauld’s exhibition programme as well as support for the institute, including academic posts and scholarships.

In addition to her role at the ORNC Mary Ellen is on the Development Committee for the New English Ballet Theatre, an innovative performance company created to provide employment opportunities for ballet, visual art and choreography graduates in the UK.

Mary Ellen has an M.B.A. from New York University in Marketing and Finance. Born and raised in New York City, she has lived with her family in London for 25 years and in her spare time takes advantage of the city’s outstanding cultural scene.


Sarah Duthie - Public Engagement Director


Sarah Duthie, Public Engagement Director

Sarah joined the ORNC after most recently working as a consultant mainly operating in Bristol. Until 2013, she was for 6 years, the Chief Executive and Project Manager at the Bishop’s Palace in Wells, Somerset where she oversaw a transformational HLF project and the subsequent development of the business.

This followed a period as Operational Manager at Bristol Museums, accountable for retail, visitor services, catering plus other operational management, across 5 sites.

She had previously moved to Bristol from London where she was Retail and Admissions Manager at The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, London Wetland Centre, following the early part of her career in Retail working for the Natural World Gift Company. She has a BA (Hons) in Retail and a Post Graduate Diploma in Strategic Management.


Will Palin - Conservation Director


Will Palin, Conservation Director

Will started his career in Journalism after graduating in English from Oxford. He went on to study History of Architecture at the Courtauld Institute. He worked as a Caseworker for the Mausolea & Monuments Trust and as Education Officer for the Georgian Group before being appointed Assistant Curator at Sir John Soane's Museum in London.

He was there responsible for exhibitions and education and curated and staged a number of high-profile events, as well as managing an effective and long-running series of courses and lectures. In parallel, Will lectured and contributed to other educational initiatives with a range of organisations such as the Royal Academy and the British Museum, as well as teaching on academic courses.

He went on to become the Secretary (Director) of SAVE Britain’s Heritage. During his time at the organisation he took forward the rescue of Castle House in Bridgwater, Somerset, as well as a major group of Regency houses in the former Naval Dockyard at Sheerness. Will also led a series of successful legal challenges to demolitions of historic buildings including a landmark judgement in the Court of Appeal which led to new controls over demolition of all buildings. He ran a series of high-profile campaigns and was also regularly involved in fundraising, putting the charity on a sound financial base before handing it on to his successor in 2012.

Since leaving SAVE Will has consolidated his reputation as a freelance writer and consultant, contributing in particular to Country Life and Building Design. He remains active on the lecture circuit and in running architectural tours and is actively engaged with the Georgian Group, the Ancient Monuments Society and other conservation organisations


Ed Barnard - Finance Director


Ed Barnard, Finance & Commercial Director

After graduating with a BA in Economics, Ed spend a short period in NHS Finance before joining the Imperial War Museum, where he worked for 8 years as an accountant. During this time Ed became a Chartered Management Accountant (ACMA) and worked across the 5 site organisation on corporate planning, a variety of capital projects and in particular the implementation of budget management and procurement software.

Ed joins the ORNC having spent 4 years as Finance Director at Sir John Soane’s Museum. During this time, Ed steered the finances of the Museum through a particularly difficult financial period of declining government grant, and set up a trading subsidiary, Soane Museum Enterprises as well as an independent fundraising Trust. He also worked on the critically acclaimed Opening up the Soane (OUTS) project, a £7m conservation and restoration programme.

Ed lives in London and is a keen (traffic light obeying) cyclist.

Find out more

Download a map of the ORNC >