Heartfelt tribute to estate man

Hundreds of friends gathered at Norwich Cathedral yesterday to celebrate the life of a great Norfolk countryman, Ian MacNicol.

Hundreds of friends gathered at Norwich Cathedral yesterday to celebrate the life of a great Norfolk countryman, Ian MacNicol.

The deputy lord lieutenant of Norfolk, Lady Knollys, and fellow deputy lieutenants were among the 800-strong congregration at the service, which was taken by the Dean of Norwich, the Very Rev Graham Smith, and the Bishop of Lynn, the Rt Rev James Langstaff.

Mr MacNicol, who died just a month ago from a heart attack at the age of 62, was a former national president of the Country Landowners' Assocation and the chairman of the Royal Agricultural Society of England. He also ran the 4,200-acre Stody estate near Melton Constable - described as one of the most immaculate in the country - and an extensive livestock market enterprise in the West Country.

Leaders of the farming and landowning community from across Britain came to pay their respects with the CLA represented by the former president Mark Hudson and deputy president Sir Henry Aubrey-Fletcher.

Lord Plumb, president of the National Farmers' Union, before becoming a MEP and leader of the European Parliament, travelled from his Warwickshire home. Sir Ben Gill, NFU president when Mr MacNicol was his CLA opposite number, came down from Yorkshire for the service.

And the last minister for agriculture, Nick Brown, who was sacked by prime minister Tony Blair in 2001, travelled from his Newcastle East constituency, to attend the 45-minute service. "He was a really decent man and I had a great deal of respect for him,"said Mr Brown.

Most Read

It is a measure of the affection held across communities and the political divide that such a staunch Labour MP was determined to attend.

Mr MacNicol's four children took a central role in the proceedings with his son, George, reading "Footprints in the Sand" and his oldest child, Arabella, a poem from an unknown author, When I Must Leave You. A reading from Robert Louis Stevenson by his eldest son, Charlie, was followed by his unscheduled and personal tribute. It brought the service of thanksgiving to life.

Charlie talked of his dad's great zest for life and how he had always managed to make time for his mother, Adel, and the four children. It brought tears to many as he recalled that his dad had been there for many of his really important achievements,

"the first shot, the first fish and even

the first goal".

He was "great fun" and a fantastic dad, who was always willing to be

the centre of a party and especially

with the younger generation. "He

was a great sport and everyone wanted to enjoy Big Ian or Mr MacNic's company," said Charlie.

In a moving tribute, west Norfolk landowner Anthony Duckworth-Chad, of East Rudham, who is president

of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association, and also the county branch of the CLA, said

that his great friend made a big impact in farming and countryside circles

at every level. "He was loved

by all who knew him or worked

with him. He had so much more to give.

"Ian, old friend, we shall never forget you and what you have done for all your family, your friends, your county and your country." he said.

The service was a thoroughly appropriate tribute for a real Norfolk countryman.