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Michael Walsh

A popular truism is that you are known by the company you keep’.  I pondered this when walking with my companion we attracted pitying glances. Whilst I was reasonably attired my companion looked like a down and out. Wearing ill-fitting jeans and a jumper that had seen better days my friend was also in desperate need of a shave and haircut.

Such a figure on entering a bank, especially a bank in a resort notorious for its ostentatious wealth, would normally cause unease. Yet, on my friend’s entry, a senior manager shooed away an earlier arriving client and thereupon flattered and pandered to one of the richest men in a community where millionaires are ten a penny. On an earlier occasion, I had accompanied my friend to the completion of a business deal where he sold his casino in upmarket Puerta Banus for €7 million ~ just like that.

The experience wasn’t at all unusual. Having met and befriended a number of loaded men I met only one who flaunted his wealth. On meeting that one exception I jested that he had parked his Rolls-Royce in my parking bay. In his riposte, I found the CEO of a leading chain of retailing opticians as down to earth as my local grocer.

I have an enduring friendship with a man whose property portfolio is likely valued at £20 million. He lives in a humble cottage and his only ambition is to walk his dog across the bleak Northumberland moors.

My friend Robert Burns (not the Scottish poet) was the inspiration behind the Irish pub theme phenomenon. As a consequence, my friend was a millionaire many times over but his lifestyle was as humble as that of a factory worker. Pamela Morgan, then a partner in the UK’s largest privately owned house-building company was anything but pretentious.  She was as down to earth as ~ my mum. She had started life as a theatre nurse in Liverpool’s Broadgreen Hospital.

Many people might like to give the impression that they’re wealthy. However, many rich men try hard to look just like us and they hate drawing attention to themselves. As I chatted with the CEO of Europe’s largest ship-fitters I remarked on the ordinariness of very wealthy men. He smiled: “such men don’t have anything to prove.”

On two or three occasions wealthy friends confided that they envy me my simple life. True, this has not led to us swapping bank accounts. I don’t have a problem with that as the wealthiest of men come with much material, social and psychological baggage. Being poor I have enough hassle as it is without adding the burdens carried by multi-millionaires. 


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