Hundreds attend memorial for ‘wonderful’ Norfolk fishing legend John Wilson

John Wilson at his lake in Thailand. Picture: John Wilson

John Wilson at his lake in Thailand. Picture: John Wilson - Credit: Archant

He is best known as a Norfolk fishing legend who was once voted the greatest angler of all time.

Lisa Wilson and Jo Wilson speaking at the memorial service for John Wilson MBE, Norwich Cathedral. P

Lisa Wilson and Jo Wilson speaking at the memorial service for John Wilson MBE, Norwich Cathedral. Picture: Jamie Honeywood - Credit: Archant

But few will know of John Wilson's other talents - including his background in hairdressing.

The 75-year-old's past was fondly remembered at a memorial service at Norwich Cathedral on Friday (May 24) following his death in Thailand in 2018.

About 200 people attended the service to pay tribute, including his 67-year-old wife, Jo.

She described her late husband as a "wonderful man" and a "lovely character".

Lisa Wilson and Jo Wilson speaking at the memorial service for John Wilson MBE, Norwich Cathedral. P

Lisa Wilson and Jo Wilson speaking at the memorial service for John Wilson MBE, Norwich Cathedral. Picture: Jamie Honeywood - Credit: Archant


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Mr Wilson's passion for fishing started when he was just four years old. It was a hobby that eventually became a profession, with him hosting TV shows about the sport for more than 20 years.

But before he was a household name, Mr Wilson started his working life as a hairdresser.

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His wife said he first worked at a salon in Enfield, London, before joining the Merchant Navy to cut women's hair aboard a cruise ship.

"He was very creative with his hair styles," Mrs Wilson said. "Just like he was with everything he did."

Martin Bowler speaking at the memorial service for John Wilson MBE, Norwich Cathedral. Picture: Jami

Martin Bowler speaking at the memorial service for John Wilson MBE, Norwich Cathedral. Picture: Jamie Honeywood - Credit: Archant

He later opened up a string of salons in Barbados before returning to Norfolk in 1971 to take on a fishing tackle shop at Bridewell Alley, Norwich.

Mr Wilson started his media career at the Evening news in the 1970s, when he contributed to the angling page.

He transferred to television in the mid 1980s when Anglia TV signed him up for the Go Fishing series - a show that ran until 2002.

The Angling Times awarded Mr Wilson the title "greatest angler of all time" in 2004. He was also made an MBE in 2009 for his services to angling.

Keith Arthur speaking at the memorial service for John Wilson MBE, Norwich Cathedral. Picture: Jamie

Keith Arthur speaking at the memorial service for John Wilson MBE, Norwich Cathedral. Picture: Jamie Honeywood - Credit: Archant

Speaking about Mr Wilson, his wife said: "It was love at first sight. I can honestly say that in the 24-and-a-half years we were married, we never had a bad word. We just laughed and laughed. It was wonderful."

The pair had previously lived at Lake House, Great Witchingham, near Norwich, which had a two acre lake Mr Wilson created and where fished at his local River Wensum.

They then moved to Thailand in 2013.

The dad-of-two and grandfather to six had suffered a stroke days before his death. Following an operation to clear a blood clot from his brain he went into cardiac arrest and died on November 13.

The memorial service for John Wilson MBE, Norwich Cathedral. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

The memorial service for John Wilson MBE, Norwich Cathedral. Picture: Jamie Honeywood - Credit: Archant

The memorial service for John Wilson MBE, Norwich Cathedral. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

The memorial service for John Wilson MBE, Norwich Cathedral. Picture: Jamie Honeywood - Credit: Archant

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