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Tributes paid to 'Big' John Armstrong, the man who wrote hundreds of letters to the Evening News

PUBLISHED: 10:44 20 January 2016 | UPDATED: 13:59 20 January 2016

David Armstrong: Pictures submitted

David Armstrong: Pictures submitted

Archant

In life he was a man who wrote hundreds of letters to the Evening News.

Now, in death, his memory lives on through these letters, poems and musings.

‘Big’ John Armstrong, of Meredith Road, Hellesdon, was a man who knew Norwich better than most, and had stories to match.

Mr Armstrong was one of seven siblings, born in 1933 above a butcher’s shop in St Augustine’s Street.

He had several careers in his life - van driver, bakery worker, travelling circus hand and boxer before settling into a role as a housing officer for Norwich City Council.

He retired from this role after 27 years, allowing him the time to consume himself with his great passion, poetry.

“I’ve always had that swimming around my head. I went to school in 1939 and I could read and write by then,” he said in April 2013. “I love the classics. Thomas Hardy is my favourite. He wrote of his time, and I do the same. I only write about what I know.”

Mr Armstrong’s nephew, David Armstrong, 69, cites his uncle as a huge influence in his life, describing him as “a wonderful support”.

The 69-year-old said: “My uncle meant absolutely everything to me. I had a dreadful childhood and spent many years as the ‘wayward nephew’ but Big John helped me turn my life around.

“In my early 20s, he persuaded me to go to evening classes and helped me make something of my life.”

Mr Armstrong’s poetry found its way into the pages of the Evening News on many occasions, and, in 2012, he even received a response from Downing Street, having sent a poem about a cat to the prime minister.

“He absolutely loved the English language, and loved the impact of poetry,” his nephew added. “He was just the most wonderful uncle, and the most wonderful man.”

Dennis Hatch, a friend of Mr Armstrong, said he was “heartbroken” by the news.

Mr Hatch, 81, said: “John and I were friends from when we were just 14 years old. We were both old-fashioned men and went through a lot together.

“We had our ups and downs but we remained friends through everything, through thick and thin.”

Mr Armstrong died on Saturday, December 5, 2015, aged 82.

His funeral is due to take place at Earlham Crematorium, Earlham Road, tomorrow at 2.15pm.

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