Don Havenhand – A Tribute

Don Havenhand, the English budgerigar fancier and judge died in June.

The following is a tribute by GSB.

Don Havenhand in action - click to enlargeI recall seeing, many years ago,a good film called “The Quiet Man”, starring John Wayne in the lead, but in addition to portraying a quiet man, inside him was a man of action. Don was such a man. He started life from humble beginnings, yet by sheer hard work and dedication to all things I describe as quality, and with Gloria by his side, he rose to become one of Sheffield’s most successful businessmen. Also, anyone today walking through the gates at Troway Hall, will marvel at the 16th Century house, aviaries, and the views from the terraces – perhaps with a touch of envy? Believe me, Troway Hall represents a life of dedicated work seven days a week, year on year, by a great team.

The Beginning

Don’s father was a baker of some repute. His mother was a seamstress and tailoress. She applied her skills to producing haut-couture dresses and suits for the well off ladies of Sheffield and the surroundings. The “quality factor“ in her, rubbed off on her son Donald. While at home, after the war in 1948, a relative started Don off with chickens, but a neighbour objected and he was forced to give them away to a friend. Sometimes, such an selfish neighbour attitude can result in despondency, but not Don. A friend showed him an aviary with budgerigars in it that had survived the war period. Don was landed like a fish and hooked on the hobby for the rest of his life.

Don began his new found interest in his father’s very small shed with three cages inside and a few birds. That small beginning was to later in life lead to him becoming one of the great fanciers known world wide for breeding superb quality exhibition birds that won all over England. Indeed the name Havenhand became known everywhere, just as Gloria is now known for her expertise and authority on bees and their care.

Don was the owner of Namsbury Engineering Company in Penistone Rd, Sheffield which produces all manner of heavy engineering parts and products associated with the mining industry around the world. This site was the second site of his business and was a big rise in floor space to 40,000 sq ft. It was also a massive financial risk and an increase in staff coupled with a very restless bank manager who kept appearing, unannounced, at the factory watching every move that Don made. Then big trouble. A lowering of orders due to the recession as well as having out dated engineering machines and staff to pay, caused great worry to both Don and Gloria. Both entered into long discussions into the nights, but Gloria realised that a wife has little power with her husband when many of her ideas fell on waste ground, so she persuaded Don to bring in a business consultancy which was a classic move. Don, also by this time had become totally fed up being tipped off by his secretary that she had just seen the bank manager arriving – yet again. This resulted in Don dashing, each time, out of the back door into his car parked secretly round the corner.

So in came the consultants. Their fresh eyes were seeing what Don did not want to see — namely the truth. The company, at this time, was involved in a fabrication process, but it was a dated process making small engineering parts for mining equipment. The consultants said immediately, that you have to outsource this part of the factory elsewhere. Don was horrified. “I can`t do that — I have 16 men doing that work”. The reply was short. “You did – but not now anymore or you will go under”. So Don agreed, but hated the thought of putting men out of work and the gentle side of his nature surfaced. So he asked Gloria to help, which she hated doing as well, but it had to be done and she never forgot it. Naturally she thought about what the staff would think of her. Making staff redundant is a terrible business, but unless it had been done in this case the complete business and remaining staff would have foundered.

Advice taken – in came computerised machinery and the tide turned and slowly the business went from close to failure to making money and bigger orders flooded in and have done ever since. Today led by the managing director, Mark Zuidmulder, the staff are, in Gloria`s eyes, wonderful engineers and totally trustworthy. They are a credit to the company and the mining industry.

First Meeting

You will now be wondering how Gloria and Don actually met one another. It was a bizarre encounter. Gloria was working as a scientist at Nottinham University, specialising in genetics and specifically in colour genetics. On test, were all sorts of animal samples, leathers and skins, but then she needed coloured feathers. Parrots came to mind, but no parrots around. Then a colleague announced, “Problem solved. There is a chap called Don Havenhand who keeps budgerigars nearby.” “Budgerigar keeping?”, thought Gloria, “must be a weird sort of person.” She went along complete with sample bottles. She introduced herself and said to Mr Havenhand, ”Can I have feathers from different coloured budgerigars, but I need all sorts of feathers from the tails, flights, breast and backs please from each bird?” “No you can`t”, said Havenhand. “You can only have five feathers all told”. Gloria said, “Oh, come off it you can do better than that.” At this point Mr Havenhand said to her, “What an unbelievably persistant woman you are.“ This was hardly a good start to an eventual relationship especially as Gloria immediately walked out. Nevertheless, the bird fancier in Don began to fancy another bird of a the human kind and he contacted her and she got her feathers — unruffled this time.

They met again and Don, who was a car enthusiast, showed her a classic Rolls Royce he owned. Her immediate reaction was to say “Don`t think you are going to impress me with that Mr Havenhand”. Somehow, however, he stood his ground and a mutual respect began to develop since she had not told him that she also had a love of classic cars. She was also in the process of changing from science to business, so a mutual interest was forming. Her businesses took off fast. She was earning a great deal herself and spare money was going also into classic cars. However, the problem with such cars was that when they were displayed for sale the tyres and batteries would go flat and restoring that problem was a daily chore. So she sold out because Don (he was Don by this time) thought Gloria was “off her trolley” dealing in such cars in numbers.

Honeymoon

In 1983, Gloria and Don were married – a turning point in their lives. Where to go for their honeymoon? Don decided immediately. “We are going down to Sandown racecourse!”, he announced. Gloria was shocked, as she had ideas of a luxury hotel abroad with great views –so what was at Sandown Park apart from Horses? The answer was that there was a massive budgerigar show run by a certain Gerald Binks who was anxious to show the hobby how a show should really be put on. “We are going there”, said Don emphatically. And they did! So a honeymoon at a budgie show broke new ground in a girl`s idea of a wondrous honeymoon holiday on some enchanted island in the sun.

Budgerigars

To those of you who are not fanciers and reading this love story and budgies, you will be wondering what it is all about. Perhaps it`s a hobby for the insane you may think? You could be right, I am also involved and have been for 65 years from the age of 12. There are other budgerigar fanciers who are just as badly affected and we are all candidates for the nearest asylum! Seriously though, it is a hobby that can bite you as it is all about trying to breed quality at every stage to win at any level of exhibition, as there are small ones and until recent times massive ones with 6000 birds on display. At the Budgerigar World Show at Sandown Park in 1983 we had 4500 entries and the top award for Best in Show went to a fancier, Barry Wild from Blackpool, who scooped £1100 in the process. Today, exhibition birds are bred in over 70 countries with the UK and Europe having the finest studs in existence.

Troway

I now turn to Troway Hall. It took Don and Gloria 5 years of searching to find what they were looking for. They wanted a home that felt like a coat. Warm and welcoming with great views, but it was in a terrible state back then. A muddy drive, gardens ruined, grass up to the waist, but the views were astounding. The house nevertheless was 16th Century and panelled in many rooms and it was a case of love at first sight, so they bought it at a hefty price. Years of hard work followed as the acreage is massive, but today it is a superb site in which to live. All that said – all Don wanted was a big aviary up as soon as possible! As time went on Don would reflect on his biggest win in his life in budgerigars. That was in 1980 at The National Show of The Budgerigar Society held at that time in Leeds. On the morning of that event my close friend Jim Moffat said to my son, Craig and I , “Where can we go while the judging is on Gerald?” I thought for a moment and the nearest was Don Havenhand`s place. Off we went and enjoyed a few hours in his company. Then all of us went in the afternoon to the show. Don and his partner, Bill Ruthven, won Best in Show — every fanciers dream. Jim Moffat was Best Opposite Sex Adult and Binks was Best Young Bird in Show. Among us, we had taken three of the top four awards while in Don`s aviary 20 miles away. A feat that will not ever be repeated. Well done Don. I was as delighted as anyone for you out of 5000 birds on display. A great win.

Holidays

Gloria and Don took few holidays but highest among them were visits to America and Scotland. They loved Troway so much, holidays were not too important. However, on a trip to Cape Canaveral in Florida, just by luck they saw the return of the Space Shuttle coming in to land. A thrilling sight that neither of them ever forgot. Don was as excited as a schoolboy at that moment. Of course Don would go on what we term “Budgerigar Safaris” to Europe with Gloria, or friends, to visit top aviaries. With Gloria, he would also combine it with visits to former 2nd World War sites, in particular Coldlitz Castle which fascinated him. It is of course the place where all former escapees that had been caught, were incarcerated.

“What If…” Phase

Don recently needed an operation on his knee as he could not walk at all and was in great pain. The operation planned, Don talked to Gloria at great length. He said to her, ”We have to accept that at some point we have to leave Troway and I never want to leave here at all.” Did he know something or did he have a premonition of a problem to come? We shall never know. The operation went perfectly and he came home quickly and was walking 50 yards each day. Suddenly on that Saturday,14th May, Don collapsed after a long standing oesophageal ulcer perforated. The statement by Don that he never wanted to leave Troway is the reason that he is buried there, still looking at the view both of them saw all those years ago.

Don was a man with drive and passion for whatever he did and has left the world a better place for his presence here. “It is a privilege to be born“, is a phrase we should all remember and treat this lovely world we live in so carefully. Life is precious, but not easy. It is a roller coaster with highs and lows – happy times and sad times. Don`s family meant everything to him and he tried always to help them in their difficulties when they occurred.

Don Havenhand was an English gentleman and a dedicated budgerigar fancier and an excellent judge, who all fanciers will greatly miss. We all delighted to be in his company. Well done Don. You were a great example to us all.

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About the Author: Gerald Binks began breeding budgerigars when he was 12 years old and is now arguably the most knowledgeable budgerigar fancier in the world. He has bred his fair share of Best in Show birds, judged in no less than 20 countries, founded the World Budgerigar Association, and has published two of the three classic books on the hobby. His stud in the UK attracts fanciers from near and far and is always high on the list for those wishing to purchase BA23 quality budgerigars.

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  1. Norman Wise says:

    I am shocked to hear of the passing of the great man Don Havenhand, please send my condolences to his immediate family.

    I never had the privilege to meet Don personally, that said I always looked for results concerning his birds in all the fancy press.

    RIP.

    Norman Wise, UK

  2. Barrie Shutt says:

    A wonderful tribute to a great fancier.

    Barrie Shutt, UK

  3. Thanks for sharing Don’s history.

    Great work and wonderful tribute to him Gerald.

    Mobassir Sattar Khan, Pakistan

  4. Great tribute Gerald to Don Havenhand.

    Habib Ur Rehman, Pakistan.

  5. Mike Boagey says:

    I read your tribute to Don Havenhand.

    I met with Don many times over the years and when I lived in Blackburn, I used to visit him in Sheffield on several occasions.

    He was always a gentleman and made me very welcome.

    He also sold me several good birds and gave me sound advice – he once sold me a an opaline greygreen cock, bred from another great gentleman Joe Nevin’s stock, that now is the founder stone to most of my present stock. This cock bred 14 hens and seven cocks.

    I will always be grateful that I met this great human being.

    Mike Boagey, USA

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