Former Huddersfield gymnast and pub landlord Brian Hayhurst and his wife Elaine are ex-pats who have lived just outside Fuengirola on the Costa del Sol for 20 years. Here Brian talks about the lives of two extraordinary friends who have just celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary.
It really needs a book to tell the story of our extraordinary lifelong friends, Allen and Elaine Conroy.
This couple, with whom we have shared many ups and downs over 55 years, began life in Huddersfield, travelled the world, worked most of their adult life in the Middle East and ended up living on the Costa del Sol quite near to us.
Allen (Al) began as an apprentice at David Brown’s in Lockwood and years later became senior manager of Gubrah Power and Desalination in Oman.
Elaine did secretarial work in Huddersfield and also worked in numerous UAE countries as PA to high level businessmen and national officials.
Al, although modest, is tenacious and driven, whether it was renovating any of their 20 past homes, competing at padel tennis – which he now enjoys – or creating new ventures, like his incredible flight simulator with a view to becoming a pilot soon.
In the 70s he became an international gymnast due to the discipline and encouragement of Huddersfield Gym Club coach, Stan Booth, who he said “gave him the determination to achieve goals.”
Al went into the Merchant Navy as an engineering officer, worked as CEO on big projects in Zambia, Das (UAE), Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and eventually Oman, originally for one year to prepare it for privatisation. But the government were so impressed they persuaded him to stay for six years.
And at all places, Elaine was right with him, setting up aquarobic classes and fitness groups.
A close gymnastics friend, Doug Bertelsen, and I were invited by Al to assist with an ambitious fun project at the Oman plant offering to the entire region and 300 workers to compete in games, enjoy mountains of cuisine and take home prizes and gifts etc.
When Al took over the dilapidated and dangerous plant he immediately began to improve all aspects of the acres of wasteland around the main unit, turning it into a superb facility for the community.
He built a full-size turfed and floodlit football pitch, cricket ground and, from a derelict hanger, a magnificent indoor sports hall which he named – Booth Gym.
In 2007 Oman was hit by Cyclone Gonu which flooded the 21 turbines, shutting down power and water in the country. Al and his senior staff waded through tons of sewage and mud to get things up and running.
The exhausted team were thanked personally by His Excellency Mohammed Al-Mahrouqi for their diligence and going without food or water for several days to get power and water back to the Omani people.
It was so obvious to Doug and me how much Al’s staff and workers respected him, especially the hundreds of workers settled in their newly-refurbished 12-storey (formerly derelict/squalor) apartment block.
Last weekend Al and Elaine celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary, inviting many of their friends to a decadent restaurant on a golf course.
Three times weekly Elaine plays golf brilliantly and Al his padel. They both support generously several charities and animal rescue groups regularly as they have done throughout their lives.
We’re proud to call them friends.