East Sussex friends and neighbours pay tribute to Lord Denis Healey

The Rt Hon The Lord Denis Healey at home in Alfriston ENGSUS00120120523123606
The Rt Hon The Lord Denis Healey at home in Alfriston ENGSUS00120120523123606

While Lord Healey, who died last week aged 98, was a nationally admired Labour peer, he will also be sadly missed by his Alfriston neighbours, friends in Lewes and on the coast.

Described by political foes and allies as a ‘giant’ of Westminster, he was also a war hero, serving as a major in the Royal Engineers in North Africa and a beachmaster at the Anzio landings for which he was mentioned in dispatches.

He served in No 11 during the 1974-79 government, became the party’s deputy leader in 1980 during a frontline political career and was later viewed as ‘the best prime minister the party never had.”

Tributes have poured in from all sides of the House including David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn.

Kevin Gordon, president of Alfriston History Society, said: “My father Roger worked at Berwick station where Denis Healey caught his London train.

“We were invited to tea with him and Edna at their house at Frog Firle. He sponsored me to become a House of Parliament guide.

“He used to come to History Society meetings and unveiled the village’s carved wooden sign.”

Kevin also commented on his long and happy marriage, quoting him as saying ‘there’s never been any winter in my life – Edna provides permanent sunshine.”

Never one for airs and graces, Lord Healey was an enthusiastic supporter of Alfriston’s award-winning Much Ado bookshop.

He stood in a lengthy queue outside the shop, taking his turn at a book signing by Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire.

Owner Nash Robbins said: “He was a life-long book lover and a man of deep learning as well as a much-loved member of the community who liked people.”

Former Rector Revd Frank Fox-Wilson said: “He was very hospitable and not in the least grand. The family opened their gardens for church-run charity parties and he called into the local primary school.

“He was personally very friendly – never a lord in his castle – and a very modest man who enjoyed pottering around the village.”

He was also a keen photographer and was president of Seaford Photographic Society for many years.

If you’d like to submit a tribute, email: copydesk.sussex@jpress.co.uk

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