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Tributes to Bernard Matthews

PUBLISHED: 13:00 28 November 2010

Bernard Matthews with 'Bootiful' Norfolk turkey at Great Witchingham hall in the 1980s.

Bernard Matthews with 'Bootiful' Norfolk turkey at Great Witchingham hall in the 1980s.

Friends, dignitaries and celebrities have joined members of the food and farming community to pay tribute to Norfolk icon Bernard Matthews.

The Rt Rev Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, said: “Bernard Matthews loved Norfolk and its people. A host of charities and community organisations benefited 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.”

A spokesman for Norwich City Football Club said it had been saddened by the news.

“He was a big feature of Norfolk life and a very colourful character.”

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.”

NFU chief poultry adviser Rob Newbery said: “The Bernard Matthews 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 a 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.”

Millionaire businessman Lord Alan Sugar was among the famous names to remember Bernard Matthews.

Lord Sugar described Mr Matthews as a “national treasure” after hearing the Norfolk tycoon had died.

He wrote on Twitter: “Shame about Bernard Matthews he was a great inspiration to people to show what can be achieved in life by hard work. RIP.’’

Chef Antony Worrall Thompson, who met Matthews on several occasions, said his “thoughts were with the family’’.

Caister lifeboat spokesman John Cannell described it as a great blow to senior members of the crew when they heard the news of Bernard Matthew’s death.

He said: “Ever since he came to the boathouse in 1987 and met the crew, including Skipper Woodhouse and myself, an immediate rapport was struck and he has been a constant supporter.”

Apart from donating money to the independent lifeboat station, he had offered help in so many other ways and become a true friend of the crew.

“At Christmas we always had a party with him and he gave a turkey to every member of the crew,” said Mr Cannell.

He said it was fitting that his name would live on in the name of the station’s state-of-the-art jet-propelled lifeboat, the Bernard Matthews II.

Comedian Jim Davidson, a fellow fundraiser for the Caister Lifeboat, said Mr Matthews was a “great Norfolk man”.

“He never forgot the little people that were around him, even though he became very successful,” he said. “His support of the Caister Lifeboat has saved many lives, but he never shouted about it. In fact, he was slightly embarrassed when they named the boat after him. He was a great supporter of the blokes as well, he always had a chat with them and they loved him for it.”

Mr Matthews was president of the Royal Norfolk Show in 2001 and in 2002, when he ran with the baton for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations.

John Purling, Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association chief executive, said: “I think Norfolk has lost a great friend, entrepreneur and businessman in Bernard. He was a generous sponsor and supporter. He enabled the show’s organisers to bring events and features to the show that otherwise might not have been possible. We were all extremely sad to hear he has passed away.”

Henry Cator, chairman of Royal Agricultural Society of England, and a former president of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association, said:

“Bernard was a great enthusiast for Norfolk and a very generous supporter of many charities here in Norfolk and throughout the country. He was a born marketeer and always conscious of his brand. I remember so well his Presidency at the Norfolk Show for two years.

“Bernard had a wonderful sense of humour and was naturally proud of all that he achieved in building his business to have an international reputation. He was one of the first Norfolk Oaks to support the ‘Inspiration for the Future’ campaign at Norwich Cathedral. His enthusiasm and leadership will be missed in Norfolk.”

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 here and was such an iconic ambassador for Broadland and for Norfolk.”

Champion of the Norfolk dialect Keith Skipper told how Bernard Matthews’ “bootiful” advertising slogan has been a “wishbone of contention” between the two of them.

In a typically tongue in cheek tribute, he said: “Over the years I have tried to tackle him over the pronunciation and spelling of his bootiful – because we felt it should be ‘bewtiful.’

“I wrote to him on a couple of occasions when the Friends of Norfolk Dialect group was formed, but never got a reply.

“At Radio Norfolk I met him, off air, and accused him of talking gobbledegook, but he did not find it very amusing and it ruffled his feathers a bit. He seemed a bit suspicious of the media.”

The debate over the pronunciation had raised the profile of Norfolk dialect nationwide. The television advert had given a wrong impression but there was no such thing as bad publicity, and the bootiful was at least better than the “Mummerset abominations of others.”

Mr Matthews had however been a key figure in Norfolk’s economy for the past 50 years in terms of business and employment, and had “put a different set of wings” back on many wartime aerodromes.

Do you want to pay tribute to Mr Matthews? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1 REE or email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk

To read more about his life log on to www.eveningnews24.co.uk

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