Celebrating the life of Lord Plumb

03 January 2023

An image of Henry Plumb sat in a chair

Farmers, friends and colleagues from far and wide gathered at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster Abbey, to commemorate the extraordinary life and work of the former NFU President, Lord Henry Plumb.

The service of thanksgiving, led by the Reverend Dr James Hawkey, was, as he described in his opening remarks, a celebration of “a life well lived; for a vocation pursued and fulfilled; and for a legacy which serves subsequent generations of our rural communities”.

The farmers’ man

Reverend Hawkey continued by paying tribute to the “boy from an ordinary farming background” who went on to lead the NFU through a turbulent period as President during the 1970s.

You can catch NFU President Minette Batters on BBC Radio 4's biography programme Great Lives on 3 January at 4.30pm, where she will be remembering the life of the late Lord Plumb. 

Listen to Minette.

NFU President Minette Batters was invited to speak on Lord Plumb’s time with the NFU, describing how his commitment to the industry extended far beyond his presidency. “Right up to the end of his life he was sharing with me his incredibly acute analysis of current events and giving me valuable advice,” she reflected.

There was a ripple of laughter in the audience as Minette recalled former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher’s description of Lord Plumb as “the farmers’ man”. 

“Although,” she continued, “I think there was a sense in which Margaret Thatcher was right. He was, first and foremost, a farmer, and he never deviated from that.”

A role model to many

“Henry’s mentoring extended beyond young farmers to successive generations of NFU officeholders - myself included. Right up to the end of his life he was sharing with me his incredibly acute analysis of current events and giving me valuable advice."

NFU President, Minette Batters

Lord Plumb was notably the only UK representative to also serve as the elected President of the European Parliament, where he remained a passionate champion for the agricultural sector.

Former President of the European Parliament, Dr Hans-Gert Pöettering led a tribute on behalf of MEPs, remembering Lord Plumb as “a role model to many, including myself”.

Readings and addresses were given by the former Bishop of Hereford The Right Reverend John Oliver, Trustee of the Henry Plumb Foundation David Richard OBE, and former Conservative MP David Curry, the latter of which chose to read a verse from Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales describing the character of the Knight, known for his chivalry and gentility.

Henry the farmer and friend

Also in attendance was The Lord Gardiner of Kimble, as well as The Lord Curry of Kirkharle Kt CBE, representing the Lord Speaker and His Majesty The King respectively.

Closing prayers were made by Lord Plumb’s son, John Plumb, who remembered the “father, grandfather, and great-grandfather,” as well as “Henry the farmer and friend, who never lost his lifetime’s love and enthusiasm for his stock”.

Above all, Lord Plumb’s unwavering dedication to the farming community, and the deep affection in which he was, and is still held, shone through the tributes made on his behalf.

Read more on the life of Lord Plumb:

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