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Tributes paid across Diss to former D A Browne & Son boss Roger Browne

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People across Diss, Harleston and Pulham are mourning the loss of “one of life’s characters” following the death of Roger Browne last month.

The grandfather-of-seven was a much-loved and recognisable figure across south Norfolk, having run the family butchers D A Browne & Son in Diss.

Outside of work, he enjoyed an successful stock car racing career and headed an events management team that once booked The Beatles to perform at the Corn Hall.

Roger Browne took over D.A. Browne & Son Butchers from his father, Dan, in 1975.
Roger Browne took over D.A. Browne & Son Butchers from his father, Dan, in 1975.

He died at his home in Mill Orchard, Pulham Market, on April 22, following a battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was 78.

Growing up in Bank Street, Pulham, he attended school in Earsham, before taking on a job as a sheet metal worker at Laurence Scott Ltd in Carrow Road – also home to his beloved Norwich City Football Club.

“He was a very skilled metal worker,” said his childhood friend Martin Smith.

Mr Browne (centre) at the Masonic Lodge Open Day in Harleston with Meryl Butcher and Tim Baldry.
Mr Browne (centre) at the Masonic Lodge Open Day in Harleston with Meryl Butcher and Tim Baldry.

“At one point he was named apprentice of the year, because everything was always done to the nth degree with Roger – he was good at everything he did.

“It was always at 100 miles per hour and there was never any loose ends.”

In the early 1960s, he formed an events management team alongside friends Michael Canham, Peter Stannard and Rodney Scott.

Together they booked dancers and musicians to perform across the Waveney Valley region, even booking The Beatles to perform at the Corn Hall – before cancelling them in favour of lesser-known Merseyside rockers Billy J Kramer and The Dakotas.

“It was the early days of The Beatles and, at the time, Billy J Kramer had a number one out,” recalled Mr Smith.

“He used to always laugh about it and say he still had the letter from [long-time Beatles producer] George Martin confirming they would come.”

A skilled stock car racer, he came third in the Stock Car European Championships in Holland.

“He was very successful through his career,” said Derek Fiske, who raced alongside Mr Browne in the late ‘60s.

“He was very good, aggressive and determined.

“A lovely fellow off the track, on it, he took no prisoners.”

Not only an accomplished driver, Mr Browne would build the cars, too.

“He built them from the ground up,” said Mr Smith.

“They didn’t have a lot of screws in them – they were hand built from the chassis.”

In 1975, he took over his father, Dan’s business, D A Browne & Son, overseeing its expansion into Harleston.

“He built the business up phenomenally,” said Mr Smith.

“Roger being Roger, everything was done to the absolute best.

“Half the public had no idea what he had achieved in his life.

“You get a lot of people who do things and don’t stop talking about them, but he never said a thing about what he had done – he just got on with it.”

Beyond his long list of achievements, however, he will be best remembered for his infectious personality.

Basil Abbott, who runs Diss Museum, explained how, in 2006, Mr Browne had allowed him to scour through the butchers’ shop for relics left behind by the previous owner, Earnest Anness.

Mr Abbott, 72, said: “I had been told there was a treasure trove of unexplored material in Mr Browne’s upper room.

“He let me go up and spend time there – he was a very friendly and affable man.”

Mr Smith, who had known Mr Browne since childhood, added: “He was just a cracking bloke.

“He lived a very full life – you could probably write an entire book about him.

“He was reliable, hilariously funny and could bring the house down with a single word. He was truly one of life’s characters.”

Mr Browne is survived by his wife, Janet, 78, three children, Jenny, Charon and Danny, and seven grandchildren, Charlie, 27, Kieran, 25, Owen, 21, Aidan, 20, and Callum and Madison, both 17, and Zenna 10.

The Browne family have invited people to go along to the funeral service next week to pay their respects.

It will take place at St Mary Magdalene Church in Station Road, Pulham Market, on Tuesday at 2pm.

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