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His message: “Life only comes once. You get one bite at it. So make it a large one and live life to the hilt”. His pursuit of adventure has at times interfered with material gain and as he states “I wasn’t destined to be a successful money shuffler. Life is for living and I have fulfilled my dreams and I thank my forebears, my schooling, and my regiment for giving me a thirst for adventure which has been tempered by moments of extreme danger. I’ve grabbed life with two hands. I may not be a wealthy man in consumer terms but a very rich man in terms of magnificent memories.

Birth and upbringingmichael-callender-upbringing.png

Born January 1939, London. “I recall the blitz from my paternal grandmother’s top floor flat in Kensington, close to Kensington Gardens. When the bombing became too hectic, we were relocated to our maternal grandparents’ home, Pyt House, near Shaftesbury, Dorset”.

For the full account refer ‘Leopard on a razor wire’ Chapter1.

Marital status

Married Vivienne 1966, London. Two children – MaryAnne and Sean.

Refer ‘Leopard on a razor wire’ Chapter 19 which covers the tragic death of MaryAnne, the adventuress, and Sean’s career as a bush pilot.


Worth preparatory school (1946 – 1952)

A large preparatory school in Sussex. The leading feeder school for Downside. “The Benedictine monks taught one to play rugby & box at a tender age – a suitable grooming for the big school.” Worth is now a fully-fledged Public School in its own right.

Downside School (1952 – 1956)

A leading Catholic school in Britain near Bath, Somerset.  "Acclaimed in my time as one of the indomitable rugby & boxing establishments in the West Country.  In addition to its ranking as a legendary sporting school in Britain, the inspirational monks , some intellectually brilliant including Dom Wilfred Passmore (headmaster) and Dom Aelred Watkin ( my housemaster) , made the school a font of great minds that excelled at Oxford |& Cambridge. The Benedictine monks and the laymen at Downside gave their pupils a magnificent grounding for the big world which stood one in good stead to face the vicissitudes of life”.

Refer ‘Leopard on a razor wire' Chapter 10 for further insight into Downside.


Basic training (1957): Rifle Brigade, Winchester Barracks.

Eaton Hall OCS (1957)

This famous military institution produced National Service infantry officers for the British army. The OCS was situated at  the ancestral home of the Westminster family near Chester and loaned to the British government during WW2 up to the disbandment of National Service 1958. “Eaton Hall was an adventure. The majority of us gained a valuable experience through the very fine officer instructors and the respected Guards NCO’s – most of whom had seen active service in WW2 – which stood us in good stead as officers and leaders of men at a young age”

The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)  1957 – 1959

Served as a second lieutenant in this famous Scots Regiment of 300 years history as the 26th Regiment of the Line that recruited primarily from the environs of Glasgow. “ I experienced an extremely exciting period of my formative years with the Jocks in Bahrain, Kenya, Aden and Jordan.The Cameronians were a tough lot but they were a ‘university of life’ – I only had affection and admiration for this fighting regiment”.

Refer ‘Leopard on a razor wire’ chapter 11 for more on the author’s military experiences.


Lonsdale Hands Organisation

1962 - 65 - Worked in Jamaica for this period primarily on behalf of  Carreras Rothmans, the tobacco conglomerate.“Jamaica was in my time a piratical haven – a reflection of its rich history and an eminently suitable environment for a wild spirited young fellow which was reminiscent of that buccaneer, Sir Henry Morgan, the seventeenth century pirate leader of the Caribbean and the first Governor of Jamaica". 1965 – 1967. London, working primarily on the Carreras Rothmans account.

Cantrell & Cochrane 1967 – 1969
Sunbury, near London.Gained useful experience in marketing beverages with this well known Irish soft drinks company that was ultimately purchased by Coca Cola.

South Africa 1969 – 2008
After a short period in advertising, founded Vinuchi Pty Ltd that ultimately became the market leader in South Africa for corporate ties and scarves with sales offices in Sydney, London, Greenwich ( Connecticut), and Toronto.

Refer first paragraph of ‘Background’ and Chapter 12 for extra detail on the author’s business career.


Comrades 1978 ( 8hrs8min);1982(7hrs38min);1985(8hrs20min).  Iron Man 1983 Inaugural (beaten by cut-off with 10 minutes to finish line);1984(10hrs38min);1985(10hrs22min Silver medal);1987(10hrs7min silver medal – 14th Master to cross line). Midmar Mile swim 1979(43min);New York marathon1983(3hhrs 20min). Two Oceans marathon (1997 & 1998). Duzi canoe marathon 1989 double with Tony Beith;1990 double with Tony Beith but retired injured;1991 double with Tony Lightfoot;2000 double with L Benham – 1st Grandmasters;2002 double with A Lightfoot – 1st Grandmasters. Also competed in Breede, Vaal, Fish River, 50 Miler Umzinyathi canoe marathons.

Note: Comrades is run over 90 km of hills between Pietermaritzburg – Durban; Two Oceans marathon staged around Cape Peninsular 56 kms; Duzi three day canoe marathon 120 kms in the Valley of a Thousand Hills finishing in Durban; Iron Man involving 22 km of canoeing in Hartbeestpoort dam(NW of Johannesburg) – 110 km of cycling – standard marathon 42 kms finishing in Sandton, Johannesburg.

Refer ‘Leopard….’ chapters 6/9/13/17 for graphic descriptions of the aforementioned races and events.