North Norfolk tributes to Paul Howell
A north Norfolk airfield operator was among the first to pay tribute yesterday to his flying friend who has died in an African air crash.Paul Howell, son of former Tory North Norfolk MP Sir Ralph Howell, died at the weekend when a small plane crashed in Mozambique.
A north Norfolk airfield operator was among the first to pay tribute yesterday to his flying friend who has died in an African air crash.
Paul Howell, son of former Tory North Norfolk MP Sir Ralph Howell, died at the weekend when a small plane crashed in Mozambique.
The colourful politician and socialite, who was 57, was on a trip to South Africa with his new wife Ayesha, who was not on the plane.
Chris Gurney who was left in a wheelchair after crashing in a Tiger Moth biplane with Mr Howell more than 25 years ago, described him as “a true Norfolkman - a larger than life character who will be sorely missed.”
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At the time of their crash, on April 10 1981, Mr Gurney was a commercial pilot of seven years standing and a flying instructor based in South Africa and was home on holiday when they met up.
“We used to enjoy flying during the day and having a few beers at night. I had faith in him to do some aerobatics. It was a case a couple of things going wrong together.”
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He and Mr Howell, who was at the controls, remained friends after the accident.
“We stayed mates. Life is too short and Norfolk too small to worry about it,” said Mr Gurney, now 56.
Mr Howell was left with a husky voice from throat injuries, which proved to be a “bit of a babe magnet - and he played on it,” smiled Mr Gurney.
Mr Howell who lived at Wendling near Dereham was a Euro MP for 15 years, hitting the headlines when involved in a brawl in the debating chamber, but in 2001 switched from the Tories to the Lib Dems and was seen supporting Norman Lamb on the campaign trail in north Norfolk during the 2001 election.
Mr Gurney said he had known Mr Howell since the 1970s through being members of two prominent Norfolk families and meeting at Norfolk social events.
“He was always the life and soul of the party. But he did not always see eye to eye with his Tory bosses and was known to resolve a dispute with his fists.
“In later years he calmed down and took his work seriously. He had just set up his Africa Timber and Farming company, though I am not sure what it did.”
But he was “like a Jack Russell; He would not let go until the job was done.
“He took all his missions very seriously and did an enormous amount of work in both the middle east and Africa and helped thousands of people. He also helped many as our Euro MP and was highly thought off. I, for one will miss the old so and so,” added Mr Gurney.
He said his heart went out to Mr Howell's family who had always been supportive to him after the crash.
Mr Howell won an Oxford blue when learning to fly at university, and the pair had flown together in the past.
But there was no bitterness after the crash, and the two remained friends, enjoying swapping beers and banter.
“We were both busy but used to meet up - including once a year at the Royal Norfolk Show, in the members tent bar at noon, when he'd buy me a pint.
“I will always remember his happy smiling face coming into the tent going all glum when he had to put his hand into his pocket to buy me a beer.
“We were going to meet again after the busy summer - but sadly that will never happen.”