PADDY ASHDOWN was laid to rest yesterday in a wicker coffin after a private funeral at the village where he lived.
His widow Jane and the couple’s two grown-up children were joined by family and friends to celebrate the life of the former Marine who became an MI6 spy before entering politics and going on to lead the Liberal Democrats.
There were around 40 mourners inside St Mary’s church in Norton-sub-Hamdon, near Yeovil, Somerset. Another 200 followed the service on screens in the nearby village hall.
Lord Ashdown died surrounded by his family on December 22, aged 77 — just weeks after he revealed he had been diagnosed with bladder cancer.
The service was conducted by his close friend, former rector Peter Thomas. He started by referencing Lord Ashdown’s real name, Jeremy. Mourners laughed when he welcomed them by saying: ‘We’ve come together to remember before God our brother Paddy — and I suspect God also knew him as Paddy rather than Jeremy and probably didn’t call him Lord.’
The peer’s sister Alisoun Downing said: ‘You were the axis of our family. My big brother out there fighting dragons somewhere.’
John Major, the former Tory prime minister, attended the service, but leading Lib Dem colleagues stayed away. A larger memorial service will be held in London. When Lord Ashdown died, Sir John said: ‘In government, Paddy Ashdown was my opponent. In life, he was a much-valued friend.’
Villagers outside the church also had fond memories. Joan Payne, 82, said: ‘All us old ladies used to wait at the bus stop and he always used to offer a lift.
‘He was a wonderful man.’