The salesman's story: Andrew Eliott
PUBLISHED: 11:07 15 September 2011 | UPDATED: 19:59 20 February 2013
A meeting with the Queen Mother inspired Andrew Elliott's battle to overcome a childhood stammer, says Amanda Langton
Andrew Elliott is a familiar figure at horse and pony sales around the country, with his success resting on his ability to talk.
Yet, as a boy Andrew, now aged 49, was afflicted with a severe speech impediment which made his choice of career (let alone the success he has made of it) an unlikely proposition.
It was terrible. I had so much I wanted to say but it took so long to get it out that it didnt make sense when Id said it. That used to upset me and make me cross and the more upset and cross I got the worse my stammer got, says Andrew, who lives in Bromsberrow.
Stammering affects about five in every 100 children and is about four times more common in boys than in girls. Although most children grow out of it, Andrew was not so lucky and despite the help and support of his family and a professional speech therapist, his stammer accompanied him into his adult years.
Some of the happiest memories of his childhood are of the Cotswold Vale Hunt Kennels near to the familys town home in Cheltenham, where, assisting with hounds and horses he was not often required to answer questions and it was no surprise when Andrew followed his brother Howard into hunt service with the Fitzwilliam Hunt. After a few years there he returned home and took on on the coveted job of whipper-in to the Ledbury Hunt, working for the legendary huntsman that was Nimrod Champion. One of the honours of his position was to lead in the horses at the Cheltenham Festival and in 1987 Andrew accompanied Peter Scudamore on Pearlyman, who had won the Queen Mother Champion Chase, into the winners enclosure.
As he was presented to the Queen Mother, whose husbands stammering problem was the subject of this years Oscar-winning film, The Kings Speech, she told him: Dont worry young man, I have had a lot of experience of that.
The following year, when Pearlyman won the race again for John Edwards, this time with Tom Morgan in the saddle, Andrew was invited once more into the Royal Box. This time the Queen Mother asked: And how are you getting on with your stammer, young man?
Andrew says: The very idea that the Queen Mother, with all the people she had met in that year had taken time to remember me and offer me encouragement had a huge effect on me. I realised at that moment that it didnt matter who I was speaking to, however great she was she was still interested in me, despite my stammer.
My confidence grew from that moment on. It is only recently, because of the publicity the film generated, that I have realised her husband had a stammer.
Soon after that memorable incident Andrew, despite being offered the dream job of kennel huntsman to the Ledbury Hunt, decided to leave hunt service and embark on a career in sales. He travelled the country show circuit selling clothing and maintains that his sense of humour and early ability to poke fun at his affliction gave him the confidence to overcome his speech problems. His experience in sales led to an interview with Terry Court of Brightwells Auctioneers from Leominster.
Terry says: It was terrible for Andrew. The poor lad couldnt even say Good morning because he was so nervous. I sent him off to get a cup of coffee but he was even worse when he came back. We re-scheduled it for the following Monday. That must have been a good day for him because we took him on.
We are pleased to have given him the chance. He is one of the team. Andrew joined Brightwells equine team in 1992 and is now an auctioneer in the Bloodstock and Equine departments, runs Leominster and Malvern Sales and is largely responsible for valuations.
Brightwells sells more horses in England than any other company and these days Andrew finds himself with a captive audience of up to 5,000, hanging on his every word when he conducts sales. He also spends a lot of time talking on the telephone, the bte noir of anyone with a stammer, but he has conquered this problem through self-control, together with the advice of a childhood speech therapist.
He says: It was hard at first but Id made up my mind to overcome it and like, most things, determination is your best ally. I made myself relax before I even opened my mouth and if people had to wait for my response so what? Sometimes I did breathing exercises or just counted to five but I made sure I wasnt worrying about how I was going to sound and soon it all fell into place. The more I spoke the better it got, so if anyone saw me talking to myself in the car and thought I was mad, Id like to reassure them that Im not. I was just practising speaking!
Andrews other achievements include appearing in an episode of Midsomer Murders, playing the part of an auctioneer and he is a popular speaker at social functions.
His anecdotes include the story of when he stood before Bow Street Magistrates Court on a charge of disorderly conduct, after he was one of a group who staged a protest in the House of Commons during the 2004 reading of the Hunting Bill.
I stood up before the court and remembered the inspiration Id had from the Queen Mother and everything Id learned about public speaking
and gave them the speech of my life, he says.