For 19 years Glen Timmins helped protect us from some of society’s most dangerous criminals. Now, in a radical change of career he is running his own florist’s. Diane Crabtree meets him.
When florist Glen Timmins turns up at his local Women’s Institute to give a demonstration, his audience are all ears.
But they don’t want to hear about the art of creating arrangements, instead they prefer Glen to talk about his fascinating life story.
And fascinating it is. Glen has gone from locking up rapists to arranging roses. He spent 18 years as a prison officer before following his dream to open his own flower shop.
Glen worked at Doncaster Jail and looked after among others, murderers, serial rapists, drug dealers, terrorists and sex offenders.
After a former partner committed suicide, he did extra training and specialised in looking after prisoners at risk of suicide or self-harm, for which he won an award in 2010. He was also a hostage negotiator and was often called to other prisons to help with inmates. And he worked on the staff care team helping fellow prison officers who suffered trauma through their work.
The role was very challenging – he dealt with violence, emotional, abuse and drug and alcohol issues on a daily basis – but he loved his work because he found it very satisfying helping others.
In the end however it took its toll and started to affect his health so he decided to become his own boss in a profession as far removed from his prison one as anyone could imagine.
Glen, who was born in Hull, was put up for adoption as a baby and after being fostered by a couple for three years, they went on to adopt him. It was his adoptive granddad who introduced him to gardening.
“My granddad who was ex-army, was always in his garden, and as a child I adored helping him. He gave me my own plot and taught me all he knew. Every Friday after checking my work he would give me my wages. He planted that seed and I grew up loving plants and flowers but never did anything with it,” says Glen who lives in Huddersfield with his partner.
Leaving school he took a job with Halfords before moving to John Lewis where he worked in lighting and kitchenware at its Aberdeen store and became a department manager. When his father became ill he moved back to Yorkshire and applied for a job in the newly opened HMP Doncaster, where he says his customer service background and calm manner helped.
“You have to have good inter-personal skills as a prison officer and prisoners are customers in a way. You have to be firm but fair with them,” says Glen, who helped organise a lot of charity events such as talent and fashion shows in prison and also worked on a major London art project with inmates which gained national attention.
“The art exhibition was a real eye opener for me. It made me realise I was suppressing my creative side and what I was dealing with on a day to day basis in prison was having a negative effect on my health. I felt burnt out.” He was doing flower arranging for friends as a hobby while working at Doncaster and started being asked to do bigger and bigger jobs, so last year he gave up his prison role to work at Rockwood Garden Centre, Grange Moor, Wakefield, where he has just opened his own shop, Flowers By Glen.
As well as selling flowers and plants, and making up arrangements, he has corporate clients and supplies local pubs and restaurants with flowers on a weekly basis. He also tends to graves on a regular basis for clients and does home visits for weddings and funerals.
His biggest job to date was the Christmas decorations at the John Smith Stadium, Huddersfield, which is home to both the town’s football and rugby club.
“I had to hire tower scaffolding and use grappling hooks. It took a lot of work but looked amazing ,” he says.
The National Media Museum, Bradford, and Freemans Grattan Holdings, Bradford, are also corporate clients.
“I did the flowers for the catalogue’s 100th birthday. I got the Freemans job after an event at the media museum to mark the retirement of James Bond producer, Michael Wilson, from his role as a chairman of trustees at the museum.
“I incorporated a silent camera – one of the first made – into one of the arrangements for Michael and in others I used film reels and film itself. I often use objects in my work,” says Glen, who is organising a fashion show and wedding fare at the John Smith Stadium later this month.
He’s got lots of weddings booked too for this year, including his own, in May, at Huddersfield Town Hall, followed by a reception for 120 at Blacker Hall Farm, Wakefield.
“I’m going to use English country garden flowers for my wedding but I’m so busy at the moment I’ve hardly had time to think about it. I love great British flowers and am pleased to see they are coming back into fashion,” says Glen who some days is up at 5.30am to buy flowers at the market and can still be doing paperwork at home at 10pm.
Like his prison work, he gets a lot of satisfaction out of his new job because he says flowers tend to make people happy and smile. He says his prison officer friends who he still keeps in touch with certainly smiled when they heard about his new career.
“Some were definitely shocked and asked me why I’d never mentioned my artistic side to them. I’m a private person really and don’t like to show off.
“My only regret is my adoptive parents and special step mum aren’t around to see me in my new role. I would not be where I am today if it had not been for them.”
Glen’s advice: Network and think local
Glen Timmins, whose favourite flower is a freesia although his best sellers are white lillies, says you never stop learning as a florist and his ambition today is to work hard and be successful.
He would encourage anyone starting their own business to network. He attends a networking group, BNI Giants in Huddersfield and says he has received lots of support and repeat business from other members.
He is also a great believer in buying locally and says all the shop owners at the garden centre help one another and he is grateful for their advice.
And for those who are wondering, yes he does use wire in some of his bouquets but not the barbed sort. Anyone who would like more details or to book Glen for a demonstration can visit www.flowersby glen.co.uk or visit his shop, Flowers by Glen, at Rockwood Garden Centre, Wakefield Road, Grangemoor, Wakefield.