Mary Birkbeck, of Little Massingham, passed away in hospital on January 8, at the age of 84.

Her younger brother John - better-known as Tiggy - Birkbeck, the former county councillor and High Sheriff of Norfolk, said: 'She was an extraordinary character, really.

'She was very keen on horses and racing and she used to hunt in her earlier days. Her main interest in life was coursing, her greyhounds were her love and when they banned coursing, the bottom fell out of her world.'

Miss Birkbeck won the Waterloo Cup, hare coursing's premier prize, in 1973. North Norfolk greyhound owner Fred Page said: 'She was such a perfectionist. Dogs loved her, there are few people in this world that dogs love and adore and she had that.

'That, toigether with her perfectionism, her attention to detail, made her the success she was.

'She was such a character, a powerful character, she feared no-one and nothing, in a lifetime you'd never meet another person like her.'

The controversial sport of coursing, where two greyhounds are set on a hare, was banned under the 2004 Hunting Act.

In 2008, Miss Birkbeck and a friend were convicted of coursing and given conditional discharges, after a court heard they had staged greyhound trials, where hares were chased by dogs wearing muzzles.

The judge said both had made 'sincere' efforts to remain within the law.

Miss Birkbeck became president of the Kimberley and Wymondham Greyhound Club - formerly a coursing club - two years ago.

Chairman Les Anderson, from Feltwell, said: 'She was a first-class, dedicated person to the sport we were in. She was born and bred into it, it's been her life.

'She was very outspoken but she was very honest indeed and I valued her help immensely as our president.'

Miss Birkbeck lived at Mill House, Harpley, until 1992, when she inherited the Little Massingham estate, where she resided until her death.

Her funeral will be held at St Andrew's Church, Little Massingham on Thursday, January 28 (2.30pm).