Obituary: County council's first PR man dies aged 87

A Scottish holiday: Norfolk County Council's first PR officer and former journalist, Bernard Farrant died aged 87

A Scottish holiday: Norfolk County Council's first PR officer and former journalist, Bernard Farrant (pictured on a beach) died aged 87 - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

As a former journalist with an "ability to talk to anyone”, Bernard Farrant appeared to be an obvious choice when it came to appointing the county council’s first public relations officer. 

As the first incumbent after the new post was announced in 1974, Mr Farrant was introduced to members of the policy and resources committee where it was revealed he would have three main responsibilities. 

First, he would provide an information service to council members, then he would deal with explaining the council’s activities to the public and press, and lastly, he would develop more effective public participation. 

In a career spanning more than 25, it is fair to say he accomplished those objectives with professionalism and a quirkiness that had stayed with him throughout his life. 

As a child, he once befriended a herring gull which had followed him home from the beach and, with a little encouragement, it made itself comfortable in the backyard of the family home.

The residency was short-lived, however, after his mother put a stop to it.

Mr Farrant would later claim this forced him to turn his attentions elsewhere: towards the making of fireworks and blowing up the school toilets. 

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Even his National Service brought with it a new and unusual experience. Stationed in Cyprus, he decided to return home by hitch-hiking and completed part of the journey by getting a lift on a battleship - typical “Bernard-world” style. 

The son of parents Charles and Elsie, Bernard Charles Farrant was born in Great Yarmouth on January 21, 1935.

His father served with the Australian Imperial Force throughout the First World War and on returning to England in 1926 had a variety of jobs including custodian of the Berney Arms mill. 

Nautical adventures and exploding fireworks: Bernard Farrant had a life full of adventure

Nautical adventures and exploding fireworks: Bernard Farrant had a life full of adventure and is pictured at various ages in his life - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Mrs Farrant worked as a midwife before marrying, and went on to run a boarding house in Yarmouth, where Mr Farrant junior and his older sister Ruth grew up in the shadow of the Hippodrome with the sea on their front doorstep. 

During the Second World War, the family moved to Santon Downham where Mr Farrant senior worked for the Forestry Commission. Although a difficult time, as a boy, Mr Farrant enjoyed the excitement.  

The family’s house was on the edge of an army training ground where the young Bernard watched with great anticipation as the tanks rolled by. On one occasion, along with his friends, he pedalled hard on his push bike to reach a plane that had crashed nearby. 

Combined with the treat of catching sweets thrown by American GIs, it would be easy to forgive Mr Farrant for not returning to a heavily bombed Yarmouth, but the pull of the sea was far too strong to entertain such an idea.

On leaving school, he began work as a junior reporter for the Great Yarmouth Mercury, which was then part of Eastern Counties Newspapers.

His family said of him: “With his ability to talk to anyone, his natural curiosity, and his talent for being a good judge of character, Bernard certainly chose the right career, always enjoying aspects such as court reporting and meeting a variety of people.” 

Mr Farrant worked for the paper for 13 years, which included stints on its sister papers the Lowestoft Journal, the Evening News, and the Eastern Daily Press – where he spent several years as its yachting correspondent. 

During his time at the Journal, he met his future wife and trainee reporter, the late Ann French. They married at Cringleford Church and lived in Gorleston for a short time before moving to Norwich.

Together they had five daughters – Rosamund, Lucy (affectionately known as LuLu), Charlotte, Emma and Katy - before divorcing in 1985.

Tragically, Rosamund died when she was just three years old following complications after measles. Emma passed away in 2019.  

Early family life consisted of annual holidays around the UK to places such as Cornwall, the Welsh borders, the Lake District and Scotland.

The family also enjoyed days out to Brancaster and sailing off the coast and on the Norfolk Broads. 

In 1965, Mr Farrant joined Tibbenhams PR in Norwich, eventually becoming a director there. He then joined the Pointer Group as its public relations and advertising manager before becoming managing director of Dow Printing Ltd in 1971. 

In 1974, he joined Norfolk County Council as its first public relations officer, becoming the head of the department as it expanded. He remained there until his retirement in 2000. 

While working at the council, Mr Farrant would meet Val at a social gathering held at The Samaritans where they both volunteered.

He offered her a lift home and, after working many shifts together, they married in 1987 at City Hall, with their children – Mr Farrant’s daughters and Val’s sons Julian and Ra – as guests. 

The couple would go on to enjoy many adventures travelling to place such as India and Thailand, and would drive their VW campervan – they only vehicle they owned – across Europe for weeks at a time. 

During retirement, Mr Farrant joined Norwich Community Choir, following previous experience in a barbershop quartet during the 1970s.

He enjoyed gardening at his allotment, and riding around on his electric bike.

He also helped to care for his sister following their mother’s death, volunteered as an advisor for Citizens Advice Bureau, attended book and local history groups.

He was a member of Norwich Junior Chamber of Commerce, a former secretary of the Broad’s Society, and a supporter of Amnesty International. 

But his passion for the sea never wavered and a good day out would always involve spending time at his “happy place” at Yarmouth’s Time and Tide Museum, inhaling the smells of the smoke house, before heading to the sea front to tuck into a large portion of fish and chips. 

Mr Farrant’s health declined following a stroke and further complications, including being diagnosed with Alzheimer's and vascular dementia.

He was able to remain at home, with support from Val and carers, and spent the final months of his life at Larchwood Nursing Home. 

He died on February 2, 2022, aged 87. His funeral took place on March 10. He leaves behind his wife, children, step children, and grandchildren. 

Donations, if desired, for WaterAid may be sent c/o the East of England Co-op, St Stephen’s Square, Norwich, NR1 3SS or made online at https://bernardfarrant.muchloved.com/