Somerset

Paddy Ashdown's funeral held in Somerset

Paddy Ashdown Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Paddy Ashdown was knighted in 2000, and entered the House of Lords a year later as Baron Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon

Former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown has been remembered at a private funeral in Somerset.

Lord Ashdown died aged 77 in December after a short illness. He was diagnosed with bladder cancer in October.

The former Yeovil MP's funeral, held in his home village of Norton-sub-Hamdon, was attended by family, friends and former prime minister Sir John Major.

Hundreds of people watched the service on TV screens in the village hall.

Paddy Ashdown led the Liberal Democrats between 1988 and 1999 before standing down from Parliament in 2001 to become the United Nations' high representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Image caption The funeral was attended by close friends and family

Christened Jeremy, he was given the nickname Paddy when he went to school in England after spending his childhood years in Northern Ireland.

"Locally, you wouldn't get away with any other name," the Rev Peter Thomas told about 40 mourners at St Mary's Church.

"God also knew him as Paddy, not Jeremy, and probably didn't call him Lord," he joked.

One of the speakers at the service, Myles Wickstead, said Lord Ashdown "espoused the values of openness and tolerance, and he found them in this village which he loved".

"He was never happier than when at the Lord Nelson on a Friday night, indulging in a mixture of arguments, fun, gossip, banter and, of course, drink.

"Our community and our country now are poorer that Paddy has gone," he added.

After his death, politicians from all parties paid tribute to him, with Prime Minister Theresa May saying he "served his country with passion and distinction".

Image caption About 200 people packed the nearby village hall to see the funeral relayed on screens

At the scene: James Craig, BBC Somerset politics reporter

A private service was held in Norton-sub-Hamdon for Paddy Ashdown's family and friends earlier today.

But just a few hundred metres away, some 200 people packed into the village hall where the service was screened for local residents.

They watched moving tributes from Paddy Ashdown's son and daughter, and his sister Alison who recalled how he sent her reassuring messages in the final weeks of his life.

There were also nods to his military history as the hymn I Vow To Thee My Country was sung.

References to Paddy's persistent means of persuading his political allies and foes raised several laughs in the room.

Many people who lived locally and knew Paddy spoke about his genuine nature and described him not as Lord Ashdown or a great statesman, but rather as "one of us".

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