Dame Irene Hays says she will “treasure” a memorial bench presented to her by Personal Travel Consultants at Hays Travel in memory of her late husband John.

The founder of Hays Travel, John Hays , died in November 2020 aged 71, prompting an outpouring of tributes.

Homeworker Kath McDonald organised the collection for the gift to Dame Irene with help from fellow PTC Natalie Taylor.

The handmade wooden bench features a sunshine motif with word ‘smile’, along with the dates of John Hays’ life.

McDonald said: “We wanted something fitting for a dame – it is a classy bench for a classy lady. It is bespoke and very different.”

She said they received a “lovely message” from Dame Irene when it was given to her.

Dame Irene said: “I am truly overcome by the kindness of our homeworking colleagues and the huge affection they’ve shown for John.

“It is such a beautiful bench, designed with so much thought and care, it’s overwhelming.

“The bench is now in the perfect place at the top of the garden where John used to stand, with pride and delight, watching colleagues having fun at so many garden parties over the years.

“It catches the sun most of the day and it’s going to be somewhere I’ll sit every day – and ‘smile’ at wonderful memories. I’ll treasure it forever.”

The couple’s daughter Helen Hays tweeted a picture of the bench and said: “Rarely am I speechless, but I don’t know what to say. The Hays Travel homeworkers clubbed together and did this. What utterly lovely human beings.”