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Geldof's tribute to 'legend' of Devon farming

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 16, 2013

‘John James saved thousands, maybe millions, of people’ Bob Geldof, Band Aid

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Family, friends and leaders of international charity Band Aid, including Sir Bob Geldof, have paid tribute to Devon farming legend John James at a memorial service ceremony in South Molton.

Sir Bob surprised more than 300 people when he arrived unexpectedly and delivered a heart-warming eulogy to Mr James, whom he described as "this most magnificent of men."

Mr James, founder of Mole Valley Farmers and Band Aid's Field Director in Sudan and Ethiopia, died aged 87 on December 30.

Sir Bob's was one of several tributes given at the public thanksgiving service, which was held at South Molton Church on Friday and followed a private funeral service.

The Irish singer and political activist shared for ten minutes his favourite stories about Mr James. Without him, he said, Band Aid's work in Africa "would have been a disaster".

He said: "The man whom we are remembering today was responsible, without a shadow of a doubt, for keeping hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of people alive. The country he worked for most assiduously and eloquently is in the top ten fastest growing economies of the world and that wouldn't have been possible without this most magnificent of men."

Sir Bob made sure those at the thanksgiving service knew that the tribute he was paying came from the whole Band Aid Trust, including the singer Midge Ure of Ultravox, and the rock promoter, Harvey Goldsmith.

He said he wanted to tell how John James had come to have a "central position among the bunch of Band Aid weirdos", a description which Mr James had, himself, used when he joined them in 1985 to help the people of the Sudan and Ethiopia.

Smiling Sir Bob said: "He was right, we were a bunch of weirdos, and he fitted in perfectly."

Sir Bob went on to describe John's stamina as "beyond endless".

He described him working with the farmers of Ethiopia, trekking miles through the heat and dust, spending hours talking to them about trying to grow crops in a land where, he told mourners "you couldn't even grow a blade of grass".

"It was my instinct to trust him because he struck me, an Irishman, as the epitome of what real English people are – intelligent, rangy, and elegant – like Peter O'Toole as Lawrence of Arabia," he said.

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