Duncan Firth is Leeds born and bred. He runs a successful family butchery business with shops in Garforth and Boston Spa. His wife Helen, brother Andrew and two sons Ross and Lewis are also involved.
He spent the early days of his childhood in Harehills before moving to the other side of Easterly Road. His father then became landlord of The Drysalters in Elland Road where Duncan lived until he was 10 years old. The next move was to The Royal Hotel in Boston Spa.
He attended Hugh Gaitskill School in Beeston before being among the first ever crop of students at the new Boston Spa Comprehensive School in the early 70s. He left in 1977 with no qualifications and no idea of what he wanted to do with his life apart from follow his beloved Leeds United. His father managed to get him a job with England’s butchers in Boston Spa, ironically only 100 yards from where his shop is today, and the die was cast.
“The best thing about Leeds is that it’s a vibrant, fantastic city. It has had a lot of changes over the last 10-15 years but all for the better. We have a fantastic wealth of restaurants and pubs. This new Leeds Arena is a great addition.
“My first job was bottling up for my dad in The Drysalters where he was landlord. My first payment was half a crown. I remember I’d bottle up and then go to Elland Road with my dad and granddad where they had seats in the West Stand. We’d get to the turnstile and my dad would say ‘Is he going under the turnstile or is he going over?’ and he’d slip him half a crown to let me go under and I’d sit in between them. But getting my job with Mr Don Dyson in his butcher’s shop in Easterly Road after six months with England’s in Boston Spa was the making of me. He was a class act, a class man and I wouldn’t have done what I have without him. My parents taught me a lot but Mr Dyson polished me as an individual. He was perfect for me.
“The best piece of advice I’ve ever received is ‘you get more birds with treacle than you do vinegar’. That was from Don (Dyson) who taught me everything about butchery, life and how to conduct myself with people. He told me to try to be with everybody how you would want them to be with you and treat everybody as your mate. I tell my boys Ross and Lewis, who are both with me in the family business, exactly the same.
My lovely wife Helen would tell you that my guilty pleasure is eating far too many of my own pork pies. They are made to a very secret recipe, which I cannot divulge to anyone.
“My pet hates are rudeness and lateness. If you speak to someone and they don’t respond I find that very rude. I’m very much of the old school that I would still get up off my seat and let a lady sit down if I was riding on a bus. I open doors for anybody whether male or female if I’m at the door, but if I open the door and don’t get some form of response I usually give my own response of ‘thank you’ that I hope gets the message across. My team here at Garforth and Boston Spa are all absolutely perfect on time- keeping.
“The one thing I couldn’t live without is my garden. I love it and everything that goes with it. We have a lovely sunroom and also, probably more importantly, a fantastic fridge that keeps the beers chilled!
“If I could meet anyone I’d certainly have someone representing Leeds United. I went to a Legends evening at the Leeds Grand Theatre a few years ago and they were all there – Paul Reaney, Terry Cooper, Eddie Gray, Peter Lorimer – and it was absolutely fantastic hearing their stories.
“My top choice would be Eddie Gray as I like his character. I’d also be honoured to be in the same room as Nelson Mandela. He’s someone that I believe everyone has to look up to. He has had a torrid life but he has been true to himself throughout.
“My philosophy on life is to keep smiling and be happy. I try never to say ‘no’ to anyone. We’ve all had tough moments in life and business and it’s important that you get through it. That’s what I feel a good marriage does for you.
“I’m not a jokes person although I do laugh a lot!
“What might surprise people is that I enjoy going fly-fishing. I don’t get too much chance at the moment but that’s one of the things I’m looking forward to doing with a passion when I retire. I go to Bellflask near Ripon and Marston Wyse near Wetherby. I go there, turn the mobile phone off and enjoy two or three hours of collecting my thoughts and hopefully a few rainbow trout as well. More often than not I go on my own but sometimes with my dad.
“My childhood days were pretty good on the whole especially when we lived in Boston Spa and particularly the sweltering summers of 1975-77. It was scorching. I spent a lot of time swimming in the River Wharfe – although I wouldn’t advise anyone to do that now. I once cycled across the weir on a chopper bike. I also walked across the weir when it was in flood and fell. I wouldn’t be here today if my good friend at the time Stephen Hope hadn’t saved me. I’ve lost contact with him now. He lived in a children’s home in Boston Spa. If he hadn’t got hold of the tree branch and pulled me out I’d have been a goner.
“My first love was Helen. The pair of us had been fixed up to meet on a blind date by some friends and as soon as I saw her coming out of her house I knew I wanted nobody else. On our second date I took her to the Yorkshire Rugby League Cup Final at Headingley. I realised later it wasn’t the most romantic of dates.”