Laura picks up a gavel...and a family tradition

Laura Don at Gary Don's Auctioneers, Leeds. Below: Henry Don, grandfather of Gary
Laura Don at Gary Don's Auctioneers, Leeds. Below: Henry Don, grandfather of Gary
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LIKE father, like daughter.

When Gary Don’s son Jamie, a music video director, ruled out taking over the family-run auction house it was feared the business would one day pass into the hands of strangers.

Henry Don, grandfather of Gary

Henry Don, grandfather of Gary

But 57-year-old Mr Don can now breathe a sigh of relief as his 28-year-old actress daughter Laura has decided to pick up the gavel.

And in the past few months she has proved to be something of a natural when it comes to controlling an auction and getting fair prices for the lots.

Her decision to become an auctioneer continues a long family tradition which goes back to 1929 - and her father couldn’t be more proud.

“She’s a bit too good,” says Mr Don. “In fact, she’s a natural.

“She doesn’t just stand up and do an auction; she entertains them, she has them laughing and on her side.

“When she finished her first auction she got a standing ovation. It was one of my proudest moments in the business.”

Mr Don, who began learning about antiques alongside his father from the age of five, said it was a delight to work alongside his wife Liz, who is office manager, and their daughter.

“Laura started off with just a couple of lots and has now done six sales. I started training her up a couple of months ago - it was really in at the deep end.”

For someone who has worked on stage, conducting an auction before 200 prospective buyers wasn’t particularly nerve-racking but she did feel some pressure.

“I love it - it’s a bit like being on stage. My dad just said ‘get up and have a go’ and I went on.

“It came very naturally. I think he was quite impressed - well I hope he was.

“It’s something that must be in your blood. It was a little daunting, especially as I am the fourth generation, so I have got a lot to live up to.”

Miss Don is learning the intricacies of “dealing with the crowd”, when to inject a bit of humour and the all-important starting price to kick off an auction.

“I’m quite used to public speaking because I do acting. If you enjoy public speaking, this is a fantastic industry to go into.”

Although she has taken to antiques and auctions with gusto, she does not intend to give up acting.

She recently played the lead character in a British sci-fi series called the Chronicles of Syntax which is broadcast online.

And she has performed Shakespeare in Dubai with the Northern Shakespeare Company.

The acting and the auctioning complement one another, she says.

“Doing auctions is a lot like being on stage. I am extrovert and theatrical and we are both people who like to be in the public eye.”

It was the BBC2 series Keep it in the Family - which featured Gary Don’s search for a family ‘heir’ to take over the firm - which got his daughter to think seriously about her own position.

“Amazingly, was soon as I saw Keep it in the Family it made me realise that we did it to keep it in the family.”

She is reminded of the family tradition each time she picks up her ‘lucky’ gavel.

“Just before I went up for the first time I was presented with my own gavel. It is made from olive wood and is really rare. He’s had it a long time and presented it to me. It was a very touching moment.”

Her mother Liz said the auction house customers had really taken to her daughter.

“She speaks more clearly than Gary and is slower. He’s very quick for an auctioneer. Acting is something that runs in the family. His family are all actors and musicians. I am very proud of her for coming into the business.”