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Final farewell to Richard Huntsman, from Brancaster Staithe, who crossed Atlantic in the last Worfolk boat built in King’s Lynn

PUBLISHED: 07:00 14 March 2015 | UPDATED: 09:09 16 March 2015

Dr Richard Huntsman, of Brancaster Staithe, who has died aged 87. Picture: Submitted

Dr Richard Huntsman, of Brancaster Staithe, who has died aged 87. Picture: Submitted

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A celebrated seafarer who crossed the Atlantic in a Worfolk wooden boat has passed away at the age of 88.

Richard Huntsman (centre) with the Worfolk brothers Gerald (L) and Bill (R), with Lady of Lynn in the background.Richard Huntsman (centre) with the Worfolk brothers Gerald (L) and Bill (R), with Lady of Lynn in the background.

Retired pathologist Dr Richard Huntsman, from Brancaster Staithe, died peacefully on March 7.

His funeral is being held at Burnham Deepdale Church on Friday, March 20 (2pm).

Dr Huntsman commissioned the last boat built by the Worfolks at their yard in King’s Lynn, in 1977.

He warned brothers Bill and Gerald, who came out of retirement to build the Lady of Lynn, that he was emigrating to Canada and planned to sail her there.

The Lady of Lynn under way down the Ouse.The Lady of Lynn under way down the Ouse.

“Everything was reinforced, they were very upset when my dad insisted they cut a hole in the bottom of the boat so we could have a flushable toilet,” said daughter Jennifer Huntsman, who accompanied her father on the voyage at the age of 19.

“It was quite scary. We basically motored the whole way because the boat was so heavy.”

Dr Huntsman and his daughter sailed down the Channel and picked up the Gulf Stream after passing the Azores. As they passed the Grand Banks, east of Newfoundland, the seas became stormy.

“There were just these walls of water but the boat was solid and we just kept going,” said his daughter. “It was quite a trip.”

Richard Huntsman was born in Malaya, the third son of a rubber planter, in 1927.

After his family returned to England at an early age, he excelled at school and won a scholarship to Cambridge. He studied haematology and became an expert in sickle cell anaemia.

By the 1970s, he had married Elaine and with eight children, the couple decided to emigrate to Newfoundland, where Dr Huntsman had been offered a position at the medical school at Memorial University.

One London newspaper reported their departure under the headline: “Another family down the brain drain.”

Dr Huntsman taught, ran a blood transfusion service and worked for the Canadian Red Cross. In the 1980s, Canada’s blood supply became contaminated with HIV and Dr Huntsman’s last work was testifying before the inquiry into the scandal, in 1993.

Retiring afterwards, he and Elaine moved back to their holiday home at Brancaster Staithe. Dr Huntsman grew lemon trees and asparagus, and was a supporter of the King’s Lynn Worfolk Boat trust, which is restoring another surviving Worfolk vessel, the Baden Powell.

He died at the Two Acres care home, in Taverham. His family say he was suffering from vascular dementia, but passed away before he lost the ability to recognise his loved ones.

He is mourned by wife Elaine, sister Mary, half sister Susannah Abdullah, brother-in-law Anthony Gower, his eight children and 17 grand-children.

Paying tribute, his family said: “All appreciate the extraordinary privilege of being loved, mentored, supported and inspired by a man who was brilliant, loving and eccentric all in heroic proportions.”

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