'Hard-working, eccentric and very good company' – Suffolk's first MEP remembered

Amédée Turner during a session in the hemicycle at Strasbourg in November 1988

Amédée Turner during a session in the hemicycle at Strasbourg in November 1988 - Credit: Communautés européennes 1988

Hardworking, eccentric and always surprising, Suffolk's first MEP Amédée Turner, who has died at the age of 92, "danced to the beat of a different drum in many ways".

Lunch at Palais Rohan with former PM John Major and Sir Jack Stewart-Clark

Lunch at Palais Rohan with former PM John Major and Sir Jack Stewart-Clark - Credit: Communautés européennes 1992 - Source PE

Mr Turner died of natural causes at the family home on Monday, September 13.

The property in Westleton originally belonged to his mother, Ruth.

Following her death, it was kept on by Mr Turner and his sister, and used as his constituency base, weekend and holiday home.

A meeting in Brussels in September 1979

A meeting in Brussels in September 1979 - Credit: Communautés européennes 1979

The property's 13-acre garden was described as the late MEP's "brain on the landscape" by his son, Andrew, who said: "His creative side was his outlet. In the main, that outlet was the garden.

"He would also, each year on holiday, paint – always abstract and always reflecting a theme of events of the past year."

Described as remarkably witty and, as a consequence, very good company, Mr Turner regularly opened the gardens to visitors in return for donations to the Red Cross, St John Ambulance and St Elizabeth Hospice.

Amédée Turner and his wife, Debby

Amédée Turner and his wife, Debby - Credit: Supplied by family

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The tradition was continued by Andrew and his wife, Sue – more recently in aid of the RNLI – after they took on the property about 18 years ago.

A part of the house was converted to accommodate Mr Turner and his wife, Debby, when the couple visited regularly from London.

It became their permanent home after Mr Turner fell and broke his leg while staying following the first Covid-19 lockdown last year.

Mr Turner began his career as a patent barrister, writing a book entitled The Law of Trade Secrets in the early 60s, before becoming a QC in 1976.

Amédée Turner during a session in Strasbourg in November 1979

Amédée Turner during a session in Strasbourg in November 1979 - Credit: Communautés européennes 1979

While single, and working for Kenyon & Kenyon in New York, colleagues arranged for him to tour Vassar College, where his guide for the day was the woman he would marry in Washington DC in December 1960 and remain with for 61 years.  

Choosing to enter politics, he made three unsuccessful attempts to win Labour stronghold Norwich North for the Conservatives in the 1960s.

Described as a "one-nation Tory" by his son, Mr Turner remained politically engaged and pro-European into his older years.

Amédée Turner with his wife, Debby

Amédée Turner with his wife, Debby, in the doorway to a carriage of the Brighton Belle. The carriage was called Vera, which he bought in 1972 and which was in the garden for 15 years. It’s now a carriage of the Orient Express, travelling around the UK. - Credit: Supplied by family

When the make-up of the European Parliament changed from allocated to elected seats in 1979, Mr Turner put his name forward for a number of constituencies, including Suffolk, for which he was up against prominent local MP Sir Eldon Griffiths.

"He was very happily surprised to be selected for the Suffolk constituency because he considered it home," said his son.

"His mother's family were from Suffolk and she bought this house in 1946 when his father died as a result of being gassed in the First World War.

"My father was 16 at the time and spent a few years here before going to university.

"He was, in part, shaped by the early and sudden death of his father, leaving the family in financial difficulties. Going into law helped to pay the bills."

Mr Turner became Chief Whip of the European Democratic Group in the European Parliament and led negotiations for the Tories to join the Christian Democrats in forming a wider centre-right alliance.

"It was tricky because Thatcher was not being very pro-European at the time," said Andrew. 

Amédée Turner in December 1980

Amédée Turner in December 1980 - Credit: European Union - 1980 EP

"But it was successful and bought the British influential power in parliament."

In later years, Mr Turner was the chairman of the Committee on Civil Liberties.

He also helped secure key funding for infrastructure projects like the Orwell Bridge and A14 southern bypass.

At weekends, recalled his daughter, Pippa, while not in Strasbourg or Brussels, Mr Turner would always be visiting towns and villages in his constituency.

When Andrew removed a mast flying the European flag from the roof of their home during renovations, his father swiftly ordered a fibreglass replacement to stand in the garden.

Andrew recently starting flying the Suffolk flag from the mast, but, according to his father's wishes, has displayed the EU flag at full-mast since his death and until the day of his funeral next month.

When Mr Turner was unseated in 1994 after 15 years, he immediately threw himself into other projects, including consulting, and was employed by the European Commission to help prepare Macedonia for entry into the EU. 

He later co-wrote a book, entitled Islam and Democracy: Voices of Muslims Amongst Us, based on years of roundtable discussions with people of all faiths in many countries.

The MEP Amedee TURNER during a session in Strasbourg in March 1983.

The MEP Amedee TURNER during a session in Strasbourg in March 1983. - Credit: Communautés Européennes 1983

He would also go on to write another book, All the Qur'an in 100 pages: By a Non-Muslim for Non-Muslims, as a way of interpreting the holy book for Christian Westerners.

"His objective was to aid, understand and help communication," said Pippa.

They explained that their father would always take two suitcases when travelling, including as a member of the European Parliament committee for African, Caribbean and Pacific states.

One suitcase would be full of paperwork, while the other would be empty in order to bring home interesting objects – some of which remain in the garden, including a few chunks of the Berlin Wall. 

"He was eccentric and always surprising," said Pippa.

"He danced to the beat of a different drum in many ways."

Mr Turner is survived by his wife Debby, son Andrew, daughter Pippa, and two granddaughters, Ella and Kitty.

His funeral will take place at St Peter's Church, Westleton, at 2.30pm on October 8.
Anyone wishing to attend should email Rosedale Funeral Home, in Halesworth, at halesworth@rosedalefuneralhome.co.uk.

Charitable donations to St Peter’s Church and St Elizabeth Hospice are welcomed.