Norfolk’s Bernard Matthews dies

Turkey tycoon Bernard Matthews has died, it was announced this morning.

Mr Matthews, who was 80, died at his home in Great Witchingham at 2pm yesterday.

Brooke-born Mr Matthews, CBE, started up his poultry company in 1950, but it was the memorable 'Bootiful' catchphrase he used in television adverts for his turkeys which really made him a household name.

He retired as chairman of the company, which employs 2,500 people and has an annual turnover of more than �330m, in January this year.

Noel Bartram, group chief executive at Bernard Matthews Farms, said; 'It is with a great deal of personal sadness that I confirm Bernard Matthews passed away on the afternoon of the November 25.

'I have personally known Bernard Matthews for well over 30 years, and on behalf of myself and my fellow colleagues, I wish to express our great sorrow and extend our thoughts and sympathies to the family.

'Rarely has any business been as synonymous with the hard work and values of one man. It was Bernard Matthews who grew and developed this company through his entrepreneurial spirit, and clear focus.

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'From simple beginnings, with an initial investment of just �2.50 sixty years ago, Bernard Matthews was responsible for taking the business from twenty turkey eggs and a second-hand paraffin incubator to a successful and thriving multi million pound company.

'He is the man who effectively put turkey on the plates of everyday working families and in so doing became one of the largest employers in rural East Anglia and a major supporter of the local farming community.

'Through his own struggles as a young entrepreneur, he was always keen to support young people and the company was a founder Charter Member of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme.

'Thanks to the success of the business he also helped support many other charitable causes, often in an unsung manner, but notably the independent Caister Lifeboat and the Nelson Museum in Great Yarmouth, both of which demonstrated his keen love of Norfolk and the sea.

'In recent years Bernard Matthews became less involved in the day-to-day running of the company and in January of this year, on his 80th birthday, he stepped down as group Chairman.

'Despite today's very sad news the business will continue to thrive, as we honour his memory through our ongoing work and ensure that the business remains a great British institution, and a key part of the fabric of life in Norfolk and across East Anglia.'

Richard Jewson, Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, described the multi-millionaire as a 'fantastic servant to Norfolk'.

He said: 'Bernard Mathews was born and brought up in Norfolk. He loved the county and made it his own. His generosity to a huge range of causes was legendary.

'His achievements in business were remarkable. His loss will be widely felt and our thoughts will be with his family and all those in the business he created and led for so long.'

NFU chief poultry adviser Rob Newbery said: 'The Bernard Matthews's story is an inspiration to any farmer, or entrepreneur. From humble beginnings he built an innovative, and in its time, unique business. Bernard Matthews' success was poultry farming's success.

'Bernard Matthews is strong rural company, brand and employer, with roots firmly in farming; he created a legacy to be proud of.

'He will be sadly missed and remembered by many. Our thoughts are with his family at this time.'

William Nunn, Leader of Breckland Council, said: 'Bernard Matthews was a true entrepreneur and his name will remain synonymous with Norfolk and East Anglia for years to come.

'For several decades his business has been a major employer for people in Breckland and remains so to this day.

'The sad news of Mr Matthews' death means the Norfolk poultry industry has lost its most iconic figure and I am sure many will feel this loss.'

Councillor Simon Woodbridge, leader of Broadland District Council said: 'Our thoughts are with his friends and family and also the business community and his employees who will be deeply saddened by this news.

'Broadland was always proud that Bernard Matthews grew his business in Broadland and was such an iconic ambassador for Broadland and for Norfolk.'

The Sportspark at the University of East Anglia site named its pool after Mr Matthews as a lasting tribute to his generosity.

Assistant director of Sportspark, Maria Rowe, said: 'He was a very generous benefactor when we were gathering funding to build the Sportspark. He supported us from the start and ensured these excellent sporting facilities were built in Norfolk.

'The Bernard Matthews Olympic pool was named after him in his honour and as a result his legacy will live on.'

Clarke Willis, chief executive of agricultural purchasing group Anglia Farmers, said: 'Bernard Matthews had incredible presence. The farming community and all those in business, owe him a huge debt for putting Norfolk on the map as as centre of excellence for food production – even weathering the storm in the face of criticism when it arose.

'I know the team at Anglia Farmers and our members would join me in expressing their sadness that he has died. He leaves a legacy for us to maintain, keeping Norfolk at the forefront of the food production industry.'

Personal friend Charles Barratt, the High Sheriff of Norfolk, said he was a great businessman and benefactor of Norfolk.

'As a child we lived in the next village to Great Witchingham when Bernard Matthews moved into the hall in 1955,' he said. 'We used to wonder who this strange man was who used to have turkeys on the bottom floor of the hall while he lived above.

'As a Norfolk stockbroker, I followed Bernard Matthews from floatation in the 1971 to the buy back in 2000. He became a great personal friend and a great person to be with. He was a flamboyant television personality and yet a private man, a great friend whom we shall all miss.'

The Rt Revd Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, said: 'Bernard Matthews loved Norfolk and its people. A host of charities and community organisations benefitted from his generosity. The county has lost one of its great characters but also someone who cherished Norfolk's unique qualities. We mourn his passing and honour his memory.'

Mr Matthews leaves a widow, Joyce, four children and six grandchildren.

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