3 ISSUES FOR JUST £3 Subscribe to Devon Life today click here

Pulling the crowds in North Devon is a 16-month-old Indian Runner duck. Caroline Rees finds out more

PUBLISHED: 17:09 31 October 2012 | UPDATED: 22:15 20 February 2013

Pulling the crowds in North Devon is a 16-month-old Indian Runner duck. Caroline Rees finds out more

Pulling the crowds in North Devon is a 16-month-old Indian Runner duck. Caroline Rees finds out more

Right now, North Devon's hottest celebrity isn't an avant-garde artist or a reclusive pop star. It's an upright-walking, bowtie-wearing bird that can't fly, lives indoors and enjoys televised sport and a sip of ale!


One Man & his Duck

Pulling the crowds in North Devon is a 16-month-old Indian Runner duck. Caroline Rees finds out more...

Photos by Caroline Rees

Right now, North Devons hottest celebrity isnt an avant-garde artist or a reclusive pop star. Its an upright-walking, bowtie-wearing bird that cant fly, lives indoors and enjoys televised sport and a sip of ale!

Star, a 16-month-old Indian Runner duck, hit the headlines last year after reports that it accompanied its owner Barrie Hayman to the pub and watched the Rugby World Cup from the sofa, seemingly convinced it was human. Since then, the friendly fowl has become a crowd-puller as Barrie collects for charity around the regions markets and shows. Watching the pair in Bideford, the duck handles the attention with the poise of a seasoned entertainer, popping a coin in the bucket and strutting about photogenically.

Cowboy-hatted Barrie, 66, a failed actor, former scuba instructor and sometime sheepdog handler, chuckles at all the fuss. The American network NBC sent a film crew, theres a Facebook page and YouTube videos.

I hadnt looked for this, says Barrie. I just took it for granted that he came round with me. Then the local paper got hold of it. I had photographers and cameramen here, and the duck was in newspapers around the world. He could run for president in Brazil! On the anniversary of 9/11, I put on the ITV news. It showed Osama bin Laden, the crumbling towers, President Obama the next thing, taking up the whole screen behind the presenter, was me and my bloody duck! Whoah!

In May, the odd couple almost upstaged the Barnstaple leg of the Olympic Torch Relay in what Barrie describes as a farce worthy of Norman Wisdom. I was trying to get to The Square to wait for the crowd to break up, but people thought I was in the parade and were running to put money in the bucket. Then the torchbearers bodyguards tried to catch the duck. It was pandemonium. But Star wasnt fazed at all. He does believe hes human.

Anthropomorphising animals has its detractors, but notwithstanding his jokes about the duck enjoying a pint of Doom Bar actually, its never more than a beakful Barrie insists that Star is neither trained nor bribed to do anything unnatural. In fact, it periodically does something natural on the arm of the sofa, but Barrie is ready with a cloth.

Pennines-born Barrie, who has lived in Devon for ten years, has been breeding Runner ducks for only a few years, chiefly because he found them an amusing round-up act with his dogs. He could see instantly that Star was different. He was in the corner of the cage, very alert. When I put him down, he went mad, so I took him out again, his wings started going and he ran straight to me. Since then, the duo has been inseparable. Its entirely his decision. He wouldnt mix with the other ducklings. Even a football match at Exeter didnt ruffle the cool drake.

Barrie accepts that there is a degree of imprinting involved, whereby the duck regards him as a surrogate mother, but he sees it as a genuine friendship. Runner ducks are an excitable breed and Barries four others take off round his Eastleigh garden as we approach. Star, on the other hand, chatters away in the living room next to Barrie, occasionally sidling over to nibble my fingers. Barrie communicates in what he calls duck whispering, but what sounds like a fair impersonation of Donald Duck! Outside, its feet slap-slap down the lane behind Barrie like a feathery Charlie Chaplin.

While most people are enchanted, Barrie has fallen foul of a few: he was shown the door by jealous regulars at his previous local, and has crossed swords with the Big Sheep visitor attraction, where he used to work. Perhaps his enthusiasm for his webbed wonder is too full-on for some. As he pays tribute to his wife Sue, a youth manager for a charity, whose salary finances the pairs adventures, I wonder what she thinks about sharing her husband with a juvenile waterfowl. I do sometimes sit there and shake my head, she says merrily, but the duck has given Barrie a new lease of life. Hes a born performer and the fact that he and Star have found each other means hes out there doing what he does best. But I have drawn the line at him coming to bed with us!

There is a serious side to the story. Barrie has several long-term health conditions and was keen to make use of his new-found fame. His first thought was that the duck could make him money, but he changed his mind. Im not religious, but it was like an epiphany. I thought: hes been given to me for a reason. So I spoke to the childrens hospice, Little Bridge House, in Fremington, and he has become their mascot. I go in whenever they need me. It cheers the nurses up as well when they see the children laughing.

Star has already raised several thousand pounds for the hospice. In Barnstaple, one day in the Easter holidays I took 380, which is massive. Were out at least twice a week on our own. At weekends, Im either going to a show or to help other collectors. I make sure he gets some rest but he gets upset when I dont take him out. Mixing with other ducks, says Barrie, doesnt interest Star at all. Instead, he has a cage in the kitchen, a ready supply of worms and a growing wardrobe of bow-ties for public engagements.

Looking ahead, Barrie would like to extend his charity work around the country. Id love to tour with him and raise money for every childrens hospice. He also wouldnt mind the odd bit of film work, if only to pay his expenses. Midsomer Murders, say, where theyve got this strange bloke walking around with a duck Not much acting required, then. You think? He roars with laughter. The duck pipes up contentedly. It really is one chilled super-Star. n

Barrie communicates in what he calls duck whispering, but what sounds like a fair impersonation of Donald Duck!


One Man & his Duck



Pulling the crowds in North Devon is a 16-month-old Indian Runner duck. Caroline Rees finds out more...


Right now, North Devons hottest celebrity isnt an avant-garde artist or a reclusive pop star. Its an upright-walking, bowtie-wearing bird that cant fly, lives indoors and enjoys televised sport and a sip of ale!Star, a 16-month-old Indian Runner duck, hit the headlines last year after reports that it accompanied its owner Barrie Hayman to the pub and watched the Rugby World Cup from the sofa, seemingly convinced it was human. Since then, the friendly fowl has become a crowd-puller as Barrie collects for charity around the regions markets and shows. Watching the pair in Bideford, the duck handles the attention with the poise of a seasoned entertainer, popping a coin in the bucket and strutting about photogenically.Cowboy-hatted Barrie, 66, a failed actor, former scuba instructor and sometime sheepdog handler, chuckles at all the fuss. The American network NBC sent a film crew, theres a Facebook page and YouTube videos.I hadnt looked for this, says Barrie. I just took it for granted that he came round with me. Then the local paper got hold of it. I had photographers and cameramen here, and the duck was in newspapers around the world. He could run for president in Brazil! On the anniversary of 9/11, I put on the ITV news. It showed Osama bin Laden, the crumbling towers, President Obama the next thing, taking up the whole screen behind the presenter, was me and my bloody duck!


Barrie communicates in what he calls duck whispering, but what sounds like a fair impersonation of Donald Duck!

Whoah!In May, the odd couple almost upstaged the Barnstaple leg of the Olympic Torch Relay in what Barrie describes as a farce worthy of Norman Wisdom. I was trying to get to The Square to wait for the crowd to break up, but people thought I was in the parade and were running to put money in the bucket. Then the torchbearers bodyguards tried to catch the duck. It was pandemonium. But Star wasnt fazed at all. He does believe hes human.Anthropomorphising animals has its detractors, but notwithstanding his jokes about the duck enjoying a pint of Doom Bar actually, its never more than a beakful Barrie insists that Star is neither trained nor bribed to do anything unnatural. In fact, it periodically does something natural on the arm of the sofa, but Barrie is ready with a cloth.Pennines-born Barrie, who has lived in Devon for ten years, has been breeding Runner ducks for only a few years, chiefly because he found them an amusing round-up act with his dogs. He could see instantly that Star was different. He was in the corner of the cage, very alert. When I put him down, he went mad, so I took him out again, his wings started going and he ran straight to me. Since then, the duo has been inseparable. Its entirely his decision. He wouldnt mix with the other ducklings. Even a football match at Exeter didnt ruffle the cool drake.Barrie accepts that there is a degree of imprinting involved, whereby the duck regards him as a surrogate mother, but he sees it as a genuine friendship. Runner ducks are an excitable breed and Barries four others take off round his Eastleigh garden as we approach. Star, on the other hand, chatters away in the living room next to Barrie, occasionally sidling over to nibble my fingers. Barrie communicates in what he calls duck whispering, but what sounds like a fair impersonation of Donald Duck! Outside, its feet slap-slap down the lane behind Barrie like a feathery Charlie Chaplin.While most people are enchanted, Barrie has fallen foul of a few: he was shown the door by jealous regulars at his previous local, and has crossed swords with the Big Sheep visitor attraction, where he used to work. Perhaps his enthusiasm for his webbed wonder is too full-on for some. As he pays tribute to his wife Sue, a youth manager for a charity, whose salary finances the pairs adventures, I wonder what she thinks about sharing her husband with a juvenile waterfowl. I do sometimes sit there and shake my head, she says merrily, but the duck has given Barrie a new lease of life. Hes a born performer and the fact that he and Star have found each other means hes out there doing what he does best. But I have drawn the line at him coming to bed with us!There is a serious side to the story. Barrie has several long-term health conditions and was keen to make use of his new-found fame. His first thought was that the duck could make him money, but he changed his mind. Im not religious, but it was like an epiphany. I thought: hes been given to me for a reason. So I spoke to the childrens hospice, Little Bridge House, in Fremington, and he has become their mascot. I go in whenever they need me. It cheers the nurses up as well when they see the children laughing.Star has already raised several thousand pounds for the hospice. In Barnstaple, one day in the Easter holidays I took 380, which is massive. Were out at least twice a week on our own. At weekends, Im either going to a show or to help other collectors. I make sure he gets some rest but he gets upset when I dont take him out. Mixing with other ducks, says Barrie, doesnt interest Star at all. Instead, he has a cage in the kitchen, a ready supply of worms and a growing wardrobe of bow-ties for public engagements.Looking ahead, Barrie would like to extend his charity work around the country. Id love to tour with him and raise money for every childrens hospice. He also wouldnt mind the odd bit of film work, if only to pay his expenses. Midsomer Murders, say, where theyve got this strange bloke walking around with a duck Not much acting required, then. You think? He roars with laughter. The duck pipes up contentedly. It really is one chilled super-Star.

0 comments

More from People

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

An author known for her novels depicting life on the Channel Islands is nonetheless happiest writing from home here in Devon

Read more
Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Fig Tree Court is a development of 14 apartments in Tiverton for retired and semi- retired over-55s with gorgeous views over the Grand Western Canal

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Alex Green goes behind the scenes on the Dartington Hall Estate to find a community of artists, makers, farmers, and social entrepreneurs living out the legacy of its founders

Read more
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Many people know of award-winning Roly’s Fudge, but do they know how much hard work and business insight goes into making it?

Read more
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Topsham businessmen Steve Williams and Pete Woodham-Kay take an ethical stance on eating meat | Photos: Nick Hook

Read more
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

As llama love grips the nation, we meet a Dartmoor couple who have spent the last 11 years making them their livelihood | Words: Lydia Tewkesbury

Read more
Friday, August 24, 2018

Aimee Pagliari is the Teignmouth Life Coach and she can help you achieve your personal, career or business success through a variety of holistic methods

Read more
Friday, August 24, 2018

Although doulas are relatively unknown in the Western world, they have been supporting mothers around the world since biblical times. We’ve met Aimee Pagliari, the Teignmouth Doula, to find out more

Read more
Friday, August 24, 2018

Aimee Pagliari of Teignmouth Counselling has been working as a counsellor for 10 years and we’ve spoken to her to find out who can benefit from such therapy

Read more
Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Gill Heavens salutes a long-standing North Devon club whose members love to explore the depths of our offshore waters

Read more
Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Cantering up the gently sloping, springy turf of a Dartmoor tor is a million miles away from the noise, pollution and hubbub of Sara Cox’s life in London – and that’s exactly why the 43-year-old radio and TV presenter keeps coming back to ride there.

Read more
Tuesday, August 7, 2018

From the sublime to the quite ridiculous, the Museum of Forkbeard is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Chrissy Harris can hardly believe her eyes when she visits

Read more
Thursday, August 2, 2018

Plymouth City Council are looking for potential foster carers to bring positive change to a child’s life. Can you help?

Read more
Tuesday, July 24, 2018

A beautiful walk on Dartmoor’s western fringes with SIMONE STANBROOK-BYRNE

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy



Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search