By Sarah Townsend
Sheikh Hamdan has reportedly signed an exclusivity deal with UK-based Bryn Close to buy every bird he breeds
A former homeless man from a deprived part of the UK has turned his life around by breeding the world’s fastest racing falcons and flying them to the UAE to compete in races on behalf of wealthy sheikhs.
Doncaster-based Bryn Close has become so renowned in the emirate’s competitive falconry circles that the Crown Prince of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan, has now struck a deal with Close to buy every bird he breeds.
And this was only after Close turned down a £12 million ($18m) offer from Sheikh Hamdan to purchase the entire operation.
According to a report in the UK’s Daily Star newspaper, Close’s birds, raised on an industrial estate in South Yorkshire, can fly at average speeds of 75 mph compared to 60 mph for an average falcon.
They are flown in private jets from England to Dubai to compete in races such as President’s Cup tournament – the falcon-racing equivalent of the Grand National horse race where huge cash prizes and luxury cars are handed out to winners.
In the latest President’s Cup in Abu Dhabi in January, all seven fastest birds were reared by Close.
The 61-year-old’s story is so extraordinary that a production company wants to make a film out of his life, the newspaper reported.
He grew up in what was then a poverty-stricken part of Newcastle, as one of eight children living in a two-room flat with a violent father who was addicted to gambling.
After a brawl with his dad aged 15 he became homeless, sleeping on the streets and stealing food to survive. After spending a short amount of time in jail he moved to Doncaster to work as a shop fitter.
Gradually money started coming in, and he used this to rent a field and turn it into a motocross track. He then bought falcons and began racing them as a hobby.
Close was quoted as saying: “I’d made a lot of money and had a lovely house but I told my wife Shirley it wasn’t enough for me, so I sold the house, got out of the race-track business and spent all my cash on falcons. I was determined to breed the world’s fastest birds.”
Within 15 years he fulfilled his ambition, with word of his talents spreading quickly across the world, in particular to the Middle East. He now keeps 230 falcons at his four-acre aviary.
Said Close: “Don’t ask me what my secret is, I don’t know myself. But I do know there is no falcon breeder in the world who can compete with me.
“I just give my falcons the best of everything when they are young. They eat only the best food like quail, venison and pheasant. You can keep a falcon for 20p a day – I spend £3.90 on mine.”
Sheikh Hamdan was reportedly so pleased with the results of his training in January’s President’s Cup that he sent a £90,000 ($138,000) Range Rover to Close’s house as a ‘thank you’ present. Close said he has also received Rolex watches as gifts.
He has reportedly signed an exclusivity deal with Sheikh Hamdan whereby the Sheikh is now the only one who buys Close’s birds.
The Daily Star said Close would not reveal how much money he earns. He was quoted as saying: “I am a multi-millionaire but I don’t give a stuff about the money.
“They send me Range Rovers, they send me Rolex watches but none of that stuff matters. Nothing beats the pleasure of working with these beautiful creatures.”