Don Bailey MBE, a man who worked closely on charities with the late Princess Diana, died peacefully in his sleep on Sunday morning, aged 84.

Don commenced his working life in an insurance company in Newcastle. His talent with people saw him join the H J Heinz food company.

He described himself then as “a bowler-hatted baked bean salesman.” He worked for the company throughout his subsequent career reaching a senior position. 

Initially Don came into the public eye in Watford when he was captain of West Herts Golf Club in 1987 at a time of great uncertainty for the club’s future.

He was a towering influence at the club’s helm during the crucial application for Judicial Review of Watford Council’s decision to take over the club. Legal papers were issued and served in his name.

The club went on to win a successful judgement against the council in May 1989.

He had developed a serious heart condition in 1985. At the relatively young age of 52, he had major heart surgery at Harefield Hospital, which gave him a new lease of life and, realising that he had been lucky to survive, devoted the remainder of his life to raising funds for charity.

His first venture was to repay centres of excellence in coronary care in Harefield, Bristol and his native Newcastle with new equipment by holding a one-off national “Quality of Life” tournament at West Herts Golf Club.

A staggering £76,000 was raised in a single day.

Subsequent charity fundraising activities for the Spinal Injuries Trust raised his profile even more.

Initiatives in support of Stoke Mandeville Hospital drew in the attention of the then HRH Princess of Wales who became involved, supporting him and his causes.

Watford Observer:

He recalled first meeting her at the charity’s “swish” North London office - a Portakabin in Finchley, where they shared “builders tea” and biscuits served in the finest chipped mugs. 

He hosted a successful classical music concert at St Albans Cathedral with clarinet soloist Jack Brymer.

Don himself was a musician, former Army bandsman and jazz enthusiast.

With the Princess of Wales he was part of the organising team for a gala light entertainment event at the London Palladium, which raised thousands playing to a packed house. 

In conjunction with the Watford Observer, he played a leading role in running the annual Watford Observer Charity Golf Days hosted by the West Herts Golf Club, raising collectively tens of thousands of pounds for local charities in South West Herts.

Don Bailey’s energy, unique personality and enthusiasm were recognised by the Queen, when in 2012 he was awarded an MBE. This he collected with enormous pride accompanied by his wife Susan and granddaughter Charlotte at Windsor Castle. 

Watford Observer:

Despite reoccurring heart surgery during the 1980s and 1990s, together with further surgery for cancer (he joked that his heart had more by-passes than the M25), Don continued to be an exceedingly competent golfer at West Herts. He had served a term on the committee and had soon made his mark as a single figure competitor. His successes include twice being West Herts Club Champion Golfer.

After settling locally in Cassiobury in 1969, Don was a keen follower and season ticket holder at Watford FC. As a young man he was also an accomplished tennis player who appeared at the junior Wimbledon Championships.

He had moved to a new home in Petersfield, Hampshire, where he and his wife Susan could be close to their daughter Jane and grandchildren Charlotte and George. They recorded one of their happiest events at West Herts, 40 years after the war - a reunion of the Land Army Girls whose survivors returned to the club where they had been billeted. 

Don’s wife Susan, whom he married in 1959, predeceased him in 2014 following a 23-year battle against the effects of a brain tumour.

Since then, Don’s energy was reinvigorated with the mantra “I am alone now, but I’m not lonely”. He found solace in making many new friends and returned briefly to his charitable pursuits, in particular the Fitzroy Trust’s Rural Skills programme - a locally based centre for the special needs clients.

Funeral arrangements will follow as soon as they are released.