There could only be one topic for this column:  to mourn the loss and celebrate the memory of Sir Colin Shepherd, who has passed away shortly after his 86th birthday. 

Colin was first elected as the MP for Hereford, as the constituency was then called, in October 1974. He was re-elected four times and served until 1997, a tenure of 23 years only exceeded by Jim Thomas in the 380-odd years since the Long Parliament of 1640. 

Unlike many parliamentarians today, would-be career politicians who have tried from a young age to clamber up the greasy pole at Westminster, Colin brought a very wide range of experience to the job of MP. 

He had done his national service as a submariner in the Royal Navy, and remained a keen sailor in later life. He had been to

Cambridge University, but moved after a year to study engineering at McGill University in Canada, relishing the energy and openness of that country. And he had brought these same qualities to his work at the family firm, Haigh Engineering. 

Such are the ways of politics that Colin was never given the chance after 1979 to serve as a Minister, and it was the Government’s loss. But he served in a wide variety of roles as a backbencher: as a Parliamentary Private Secretary to Peter Walker, in supporting British farmers, in the administration of the House of Commons, and in working with Parliamentarians across the Commonwealth. 

He was especially proud to have helped to secure the commission for the superb Queen’s Jubilee fountain in New Palace Yard for the brilliant Walenty Pytel, one of his constituents. 

In Herefordshire, the list of his causes is legion, but they included the new County Hospital -- though not as a PFI -- the community hospital

In Ross, the Herefordshire FA, St Michael’s Hospice and the English Speaking Union. 

To his Parliamentary work, and to all his work as an MP, Colin brought a great warmth, a natural dignity and a deep commitment to public service, brilliantly supported by his wife Lady Lou and their family. He received a knighthood in 1997, richly deserved. 

From the moment I was first selected as a parliamentary candidate in 2006, and even now, as an MP almost eighteen years later, I have found myself regularly buttonholed by local people and organisations asking after Colin and sending their thanks and best wishes. 

Truly he was, in the famous words of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, “a verray parfit gentil knyght”. We all owe him a deep debt of gratitude. RIP.