Hay's Big Spender Has Plenty in Store for the Next Chapter in Town's History; CINEMA AMONG THE PLANS FOR ENTERPRISING TRADER

Article excerpt


A NEW enterprise whirlwind has swept into Hay-on-Wye, 50 years after Richard Booth breezed in to open his first second-hand bookshop and set off the town's rejuvenation.

Booth was born and bred in the town, but the new wind of change has travelled 5,000 miles from the Pacific coast of the United States.

That's where the somewhat appropriately-named Elizabeth Haycox was born and where, until eight years ago, she ran a wedding business on a five-acre farm in Oregon.

Now the 53-year-old has bought and transformed Booth's first bookshop, has bought and now lives on a 73-acre golf course one mile out of town, plans to open Hay's first cinema for 30 years and is a vital force in a consortium planning to buy Hay Castle.

Like so many other people in Hay, it was the books that took Ms Haycox to Hay.

They always loomed large in her life. Her grandfather, Ernest Haycox, wrote the short story that became the classic Western Stagecoach, the film that made John Wayne a star.

In 2005 the Western Writers of America voted him among the 24 best Western authors of the 20th century.

"Books have always been my best friend. I've always had a book on the go and these days I have three or four on the go at once," she said.

It was a book that brought Mrs Haycox and her husband Paul Greatbatch together. Her first husband had died in a skiing accident and she took to treating herself to dinner once a week in her local restaurant.

One day she said she noticed a tall man sitting on a stool nearby reading the French classic Colette. He asked to borrow her paper, they got chatting and stayed in touch by e-mail after he returned to his job in London as a pension funds investment manager.

One thing led to another and they married, set up home in Chelsea, and started visiting the Hay Festival every year.

"We started to come here in 2003 and the biggest stress every year was trying to find a place to stay. Once we had that sorted the rest of the year was going to be okay," she said.

When Mr Greatbatch noticed Booth's bookshop for sale the temptation proved too much and they bought it in 2007. …