“If life deals you a bad hand, don’t fold, take a chance; a good player will always come out on top.”

Craig was born on the 12th of July 1962, in St. Luke’s Hospital, Huddersfield. The second child, and only son, of Donald and Glenys Briggs. Donald, a humble lathe operator, worked for one of the town’s largest employers, David Brown Tractors of Meltham.

The birth of their first child, Julie, had been a joy. The arrival of a son would make the family complete. Donald couldn’t wait to groom his boy for sporting success. Notification of his arrival came via a phone call to his father’s employer. Unfortunately, young Craig was not a ‘normal’ lad: he’d been born with congenital feet deformities. It’s difficult to imagine a crueller message.

The Briggs family
The height of fashion

Unaware of his disability, Craig got on with life as any infant would. His first birthday brought a gift that would change his life forever. Not a cuddly toy from Mum and Dad, nor a silver-plated trinket from friends or relatives. Craig’s life-changing gift was a marvel of modern engineering, manufactured by J. E. Hanger and Co. of London for and on behalf of the National Health Service. Bespoke footwear gave Craig what the Vespa had given the youth of the fifties: freedom and independence. They weren’t quite as stylish as an Italian built scooter but he didn’t care. From now on, Master Briggs was on the move and no one would hold him back.

Over the next five years a series of surgical procedures changed the way he moved. Recollections were few but those infant experiences would influence the rest of his life. In the 1960s, bedside visits were restricted to one person for one hour per day. The anguish of a young mother listening to the tortured screams of her infant son begging her to stay must have been horrific; it wasn’t much fun for him either.

When the time came, Mum walked Craig to school like other proud mothers. For his part, Dad gave him his first and only piece of worldly advice. ‘If anyone hits you, hit ’em back.’

Ready for school
Young Master Briggs

With one exception, his mind proved sharper than his boxing prowess. Kids can be cruel, particularly to those who stand out, but only once did he break down in tears and ask, ‘Why? Why me?’ It’s a question he sometimes asks himself today, but for very different reasons. Academia was not his thing. Craig found it difficult to concentrate on anything that didn’t interest him.

He left secondary education with a mediocre haul of four ‘O’ levels and drifted aimlessly into an ‘A’ level course. It seemed preferable to starting work. If his ‘O’ level tally was disappointing, his ‘A’ level results were pitiful. Craig blamed a perforated appendix, two months before his finals, but if truth be known he’d had his fill of education.

In May 1980 Craig left college and entered the employment market. Margaret Thatcher was busy dismantling British industry and unemployment was running at a post-war high. He signed on to receive unemployment benefit and spent the summer lounging around the house watching the Wimbledon Tennis Championship on telly. As the tournament drew to a close, parental pressure to find work intensified. In September, during one of his many visits to the Job Centre, a job card caught his eye: ‘Wanted: trainee retail managers’. The idea of becoming a manager appealed, so Craig applied.

Five hundred and sixty applicants chased six positions. Craig pleaded his case at an interview and ended up being selected. After a two-week training course, in the seaside town of Southport, he passed with honours and achieved the rank of assistant manager. When asked where he’d like to ply his newfound retail skills, Craig chose London, a city paved with gold.

In October 1980, Craig left Huddersfield a naïve child and returned three and a half years later a wiser and more mature young man. A brief period of letting his hair down followed, catching up on lost time and lost youth. During those wild and hedonistic months, Craig met the love of his life and future wife, Melanie.

His career in retail spanned six and a half years with five different companies. Each one expanded his experience and knowledge but to realise his dream Craig would have to go it alone. Not long after his twenty-sixth birthday, he handed in his notice. His future lay in leather jackets. Unfortunately, no one shared this vision and his aspirations fell at the first hurdle.

The prospect of returning to the retail trade pushed him into pursuing a different path. Craig reached a compromise and worked as a self-employed agent for one of the nation’s largest insurance companies. The job title, Financial Consultant, exaggerated the role. In reality he was nothing more than a desperate insurance salesman. Life was hard and the insurance industry ruthless. Trying to sell a product that nobody wants, and which by its nature will never benefit the payee, is not easy. Unlike most recruits, Craig managed to survive and learnt some difficult but valuable lessons. 

Craig’s ‘Big Break’ came when two of his clients asked him to invest in their fledgling printing business. The first year’s accounts showed greater losses than actual sales. Against all professional advice he jumped at the chance, remortgaged the house, and bought an equal stake.

By accident rather than design, Craig had finally found his true vocation. The company was losing money hand over fist. The bank had taken a second charge on the partners’ homes and his investment had been swallowed-up in a black hole of debt. Just when things couldn’t get any worse, the bank called in the overdraft. While others worried, Craig applied himself to the problem. Through hard work and determination they weathered the storm but casualties were high.

After thirteen years of blood, sweat, and holding back the tears Craig ended up owning a modestly successful little business. The time was right to begin his journey to a dream.

In May 2002 Craig and his wife Melanie decided to sell up and chase their dream. They packed all their worldly belongings, including their dog Jazz, into Craig’s ageing executive saloon, and headed off to Spain.

Not for them the tourist-packed Costas of the Mediterranean or the whitewashed villages of Andalucía. Their destination was Galicia: a little-known region in the northwest corner of Spain.