Obituary: 'Mr North Elmham', one of Norfolk's oldest paperboys, dies at 82

Bryan Tidnam has been dubbed "Mr North Elmham"

Bryan Tidnam has been dubbed "Mr North Elmham" - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

One of Norfolk’s oldest paperboys, dubbed "Mr North Elmham”, has been described as the backbone of his community following his death aged 82. 

From riding his distinctive three-wheeler through the mid-Norfolk village to creating a show-stopping garden complete with meerkat decorations, Bryan Tidnam became a much-loved character in his local area. 

His list of accomplishments and contributions is impressive. He dedicated six decades of service to the Royal British Legion and, until recently, was still delivering the Elmham News  - a local community newsletter. 

But arguably it will be his smaller contributions to the village which will be most fondly remembered, such as waving at those who knocked on his window as they passed by and the jolly Father Christmas placed outside his home each December. 

Mr Tidnam was born on December 24, 1938, in Tasburgh, south Norfolk. Following his mother’s death in 1951, he and his father Reggie moved to North Elmham, near Dereham. 

Here his father took on the job of gardener for Air Vice Marshall Don at the Elmham House estate. Their accommodation, Garden Cottage, went with the job and Mr Tidnam would have to carry two pails of water inside the home daily to use indoors.

His father remarried in 1963, to local woman Kathleen, who described her stepson as "the son I never had".

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Mr Tidnam attended the local primary school before moving to Dereham Secondary Modern, now Neatherd High. After leaving, he became a butcher’s boy, then a station porter at North Elmham station, which closed in 1964.

He undertook his National Service with the Royal Engineers in 1958. He enlisted on February 6 and served two years and 23 days, before joining the Army Reserve. 

In 1962, he married Brenda Jean Parnell on April 21 at Hindolveston Church. The couple had met at a dance in Ryburgh. They moved to Wayside in 1972. Mrs Tidnam died aged 74 in 2015. 

Their niece, Michelle Dickinson, said: “All my life, Wayside has been the place they lived and I have many fond memories of visiting and staying as a child. 

“He loved his garden and collected meerkat ornaments. The property would be full of flowers and they were even mentioned in a gardening magazine. 

“The Christmas decorations were also popular and there was a Father Christmas that would make a noise as you passed.” 

Mr Tidnam had numerous jobs during his working life, including working with R.G. Carter Builders, Shaver’s chicken firm in Bawdeswell, now called Cobb, Bernard Matthews, and RMC Concrete in Dereham where he worked on the machine that made concrete blocks. He stayed here until his retirement, after which he became the caretaker at North Elmham Primary School – a role he retired from two years ago.

Although Mr Tidnam had a bike licence, he never passed his driving test. Instead, he opted to drive a three-wheeled car which he had for many years. 

Mr Tidnam loved sport and his television would always be on a sport channel. He was a Norwich City FC season ticket holder and sat for many years in the same seat, 117, never missing a home match. He also liked cricket and played bowls for the King’s Head club and Age Concern, becoming captain for both, and was chair for the Elmham league for 40 years. As a young man he played table tennis. 

He was a parish councillor and a member of the institute committee, a member and previous chair, secretary, and president of the North Elmham & District branch of the Royal British Legion since 1960, and a poppy collector for 40 years.

Ms Dickinson added: “Bryan will be missed by all the family but most importantly he will be missed by so many in North Elmham, both dear friends and people who he just said hello to.” 

Lifelong friend, Bob Dewing, said: “He would be a regular visitor to our home for a meal or a cuppa.  

“My daughter called him 'Mr North Elmham' and he was one of the many people who are the backbone of the village.  

“He is greatly missed by everybody. A cheery character who would always help anyone out.” 

Mr Tidnam’s funeral took place on November 19. 

  • To pay tribute to a loved one, email norfolktributes@archant.co.uk  

  • To read all obituaries and tributes join the Facebook group Norfolk's Loved & Lost.

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