REYTA Finalist Just Beverley shortlisted nominee o2 community publication award 2017

Michael Hamish Menzies-Baird, otherwise known as 'Mingus'

Mingus is our front-cover subject this month. He is of Scottish stock, but grew up in Hull, married a Cottingham lass and works in Beverley so definitely qualifies as an East Yorkshireman. In fact, he says the best thing his dad ever did was to export the family out of Glasgow, where he was born!

Mingus is currently Chair and North East Regional Representative for SSAFA, which stands for Soldier, Sailor, Airmen and Families Association. Following our article last month which highlighted the work which SSAFA carries out, we were keen to find out more about the man who spear-heads the charity in this area and what motivates him to work so tirelessly for it.

Mingus lived on the Bilton Grange Estate with his five step-sisters and one step-brother when his Dad remarried after his Mum passed away. By this time, his older, biological brothers had left home but they were still very much in touch. Mingus had no qualifications when he left school at 16, but, being a resourceful young lad, he walked up and down Hedon Road, knocking at every commercial door asking for work. He got as far as Tower Lane where he met Dave Willingham of Willingham’s Car Dismantlers who set him on straight away. Mingus clearly remembers his first pay packet - £20.99 in a brown envelope!

After 2 years the stories his older brother had to tell of foreign lands, adventure and excitement in the British Army was creating feelings of jealousy in young Mingus. He applied, and at the age of 18, joined the Royal Engineers. His wish for foreign travel was granted with postings to Belize, Ascension Islands, Germany, Kenya and Cyprus. During his service he volunteered for the Bomb Disposal Unit as he enjoyed dealing with demolitions and booby traps and became a teacher, qualified to train soldiers in PT, canoeing, abseiling, rock-climbing, caving, diving, hillwalking, drill and first aid.

By now, Mingus was a married man with two young children and it was time to return to civvy street; this was when he moved to Beverley. He enrolled at Beverley College, taking a Higher Education Access Course which enabled registration on a BA Honours in Law and Business at Humberside University (now University of Lincoln). He decided to concentrate on law, travelling to the College of Law in York to take their Legal Practice course. He was now qualified but needed to complete articles. 

Despite applying for every post he could in the area, he could only find a training post in London. This meant commuting, coming home every weekend to see his family - bar one weekend when he stayed in London, which he regrets to this day. Needless-to-say, when the London practice offered him a permanent job, he declined! However, he joined a practice in York, where he stayed for 10 years, before starting his own practice. Coles then invited him to join them as Litigation Consultant, which meant he could move back to Beverley. Mingus even lives in the same house he lived in in 1993!

Much of Mingus’ spare time is spent volunteering for SSAFA along with 6,500 other people nationally. He realises how incredibly lucky he has been in making his way in the world. He avoided injury when on active service and teaching in the Army; he has a wonderful family and friends and a career which enables him to help people professionally. The attraction of volunteering for SSAFA is that it is the original military charity. Formed in 1885, it provided nurses to the British military during WW1. In the last year, it has given out over £100,000-worth of help in this area to anyone in need who has had or currently has any role in the army, navy or air force, even if only for 1 day. Families are also helped. SSAFA also helps merchant seamen (and their families) if they were on ships used in Atlantic convoys in WW2.

Help includes money, resources, housing, medical and mental health support. Sadly, about 10% of the current prison population is made up of veterans who have offended; SSAFA is able to make a positive difference to many such cases. Volunteers, Mingus included, are trained as caseworkers to recognise their client’s needs. Case workers made 200 visits in the East Yorkshire area in September alone.

How does SSAFA get to know about cases? Many are made by third parties. Older people are often too proud or unwilling to ask for help which is, thankfully, not the case with younger people. The average age of people seeking help is dropping, but older people tend to have more complex needs and the cost of helping them is greater. SSAFA works with other charities and agencies to ensure needs are met. Mingus feels that this country lacks the capacity to thank those who have served. Newer charities, such as Help for Heroes (which helps military men and women but only from 1991), have focussed the attention of the younger generation on the sacrifices which service often calls for.

Hence the importance of Armed Forces Day, which creates a medium for recognition across age-groups. SSAFA Vice-chair and Mingus’s fellow case worker, Cllr David Elvidge, organises the Beverley Armed Forces Day, which also raises much-needed funds for the charity. Next year’s Armed Forces Day promises to be bigger and better than ever - so watch this space and, importantly, dig deep so you can help Mingus to help those who served their country so bravely and deserve our support in return.

You can find out more information about SSAFA, what they do, how you can help by volunteering or fundraising at

Telephone: 01964 552837.

Mingus can be contacted at Coles the Solicitors

Telephone: 01482 231300.

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