A textile factory owner and prolific charity fundraiser has died.
James Haigh MBE, former owner or F Drake and Co of Golcar, died at home at the age of 89 on Sunday July 17.
Mr Haigh, a well-known and well respected gentleman, was born in Golcar on 11 th November 1926.
Early in his life he showed determination to succeed and whilst attending Fox’s Academy, Huddersfield he was awarded the College of Preceptors Mathematics Prize - the top prize in all England.
Later James felt he was unlucky when he was conscripted to work in the mines during the Second World War as a Bevin Boy.
His escape came a few months later when he was injured down the mine and sent home to recover on his motorbike.
Losing consciousness he drove into the back of a lorry and although he was told he would never walk again after six months in hospital he left on his own two feet and then served as a Captain in the Army from 1946 to 1949.
When he returned to civilian life he became a textile design student at Huddersfield Technical College before eventually becoming a lecturer in textile design and colour at Huddersfield Polytechnic.
Following his marriage to Christine (nee Drake) on July 28, 1960, they took on F Drake and Co of Golcar which had been sold two years previously by Christine’s father, Percy Drake, during a difficult time in the textile world.
James was forward thinking and moved away from the shoddy world into manmade fibres and developed the business into the successful F Drake Fibres Ltd.
In 1987 James, with his son Joshua, commissioned a new factory at Slaithwaite and started J and J Haigh.
This was the first new textile factory to be built in the Upper Colne Valley since 1945 and eventually employed 130 staff.
James’ innovative leadership led to his firms receiving two Queen’s Award for Export Achievement, in 1981 and 1988.
This achievement was followed by James being awarded the MBE for Services to Export.
In 1974 James joined Toulston Polo Club, Tadcaster, following advice by his GP that he found a relaxing hobby as an antidote to his busy working life.
For the next 40 years James and Christine devoted every weekend each summer to the sport with James playing until he was 81.
In 1977 James and Christine started the Silver Jubilee Polo Tournament with the intention of raising money for the Church of England Children’s Society.
Since then many hundreds of people have attended the Jubilee Tournament for Pimms and Polo and over £200,000 has been raised for the Children’s Society.
In addition over £150,000 was raised for other local charities and groups based in Huddersfield, Halifax and Tadcaster including Kirkwood Hospice, Emley Moor Riding for the Disabled,
Milnsbridge YMCA and Colne Valley High School Careers Resource Centre.
Jim was well known throughout the polo world and was chairman of the Finance Committee of polo’s governing body, the Hurlingham Polo Association, for 20 years. In 2012 James was awarded the HPA Lifetime Achievement Award for his dedication to the sport.
Although James and his family moved to Barkisland, Halifax, in 1977, he always considered himself first and foremost to be a Golcar Lily and he and Christine were very proud to be asked to open Golcar Lily Day in 2009.
Jim was a keen supporter of other sports – he was Chairman of the Rockwood Harriers and the Drake name is synonymous with cricket as he sponsored the Huddersfield Cricket league for the past 25 years and was the first sponsor for eventer Oliver Townend.
James was also a past president of the Scapegoat Hill Band, a governor at Colne Valley High School and at Huddersfield University and also president of the Calder Valley Conservatives Association.
Above all James was a devoted family man – to his wife Christine, who died in 2012, and to his children, Josh and Lizzie, his daughter in law, Diana, and his grandchildren, Henry, Edward and Alex.
James lived his life by Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If’ which was read at his funeral - he was a true gentleman – honourable, generous and proud and will be sorely missed.