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Lord Ashdown was ‘simply Paddy’ in Norton-sub-Hamdon

Paddy Ashdown Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Lord Paddy Ashdown was Yeovil’s MP from 1983 to 2001

Lord Ashdown, who died aged 77 on Saturday, was “simply Paddy” to locals in the Somerset village where he lived for decades.

The former Yeovil MP first moved to the county in the 1970s and lived in Norton-sub-Hamdon for several years.

When he entered the Lords in 2001 it was as Baron Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon.

“Locally he wasn’t ‘Lord Ashdown’ but simply ‘Paddy’,” said Revd Peter Thomas, of St Mary’s Church.

“Though the village was, of course, proud he took its name as his title.

“Paddy and [his wife] Jane have been very much part of the Norton community across many years.

Image caption The Revd Peter Thomas said a “light has gone out from the village”

“It was here that he could walk his dog, or pop into a pub or village shop, or stop for a chat and the conversation would be about the family and the community rather than national matters.

“A light has gone out from the village.”

Image caption Publican Mark Lysandrou said it was “sad and a great loss to this community, to the village and to Yeovil”

Mark Lysandrou, publican of the Lord Nelson pub, said: “Paddy was a great man. He believed in his local village, his family and the local area. I’ve known him for a few years.

“He was absolutely excellent [as a customer]. A great man who always brought good fun, good laughter into the pub.”

Following a military career, Lord Ashdown was selected as the Liberal candidate in his wife’s home constituency of Yeovil in 1976.

But it was not until 1983 that his campaigning in Yeovil paid off and he won the seat.

Image caption Lord Ashdown worshipped at St Mary’s Church in the village

Before he became an MP, he took a job with a subsidiary of the Westland Helicopter company based in Yeovil.

Former AgustaWestland chairman Graham Cole said: “Paddy was a terrific friend of the company. Whenever I needed to meet him for advice, he always made himself available.

“He cared passionately about the company and the people who worked for it.”

Tributes from Somerset continued to come in on Sunday.

Yeovil College paid tribute on Twitter and described him as an “incredible supporter of our college”.

While Bath’s Lib Dem MP Wera Hobhouse said on Twitter he was “a visionary”.

David Heath, the former Lib Dem MP for Somerton and Frome, said it was “crushingly sad news”.

“Paddy was the best of friends, and for over 30 years we worked alongside each other to fight for a better future for our country and for local people in Somerset,” Mr Heath said.

“The country, and Somerset in particular, will be a poorer place without him.”

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