OBITUARIES: Nichol Fleming

Nichol Fleming was a paradoxical character of great charm and subtlety. He was shy, verging on the antisocial, yet a loving friend to many. Whilst his life appeared effortless, even lugubrious, he was the author of four published works of fiction, all in the "thriller" genre, during the late 1960s and early 1970s. These were inevitably compared with his uncle Ian Fleming's books. More recently, a serious work of modern history appeared, August 1939, which dealt with the weeks and events leading up to the outbreak of the Second World War. He was also a gifted journalist and wrote some excellent reviews for the Spectator in recent years.

Fleming carried out his responsibilities as a land-owning farmer with care and enthusiasm, and the rambling beech woods round Merrimoles, his Oxfordshire home in Nettlebed, remain as pristine as they were in the day of his father, Peter Fleming. Fleming senior had commissioned the architect Paul Phipps (father of Joyce Grenfell) to build this curious house. His sister Kate Fleming describes it as "a mixture of neo-Georgian and Lutyens" in her biography of Celia Johnson, their mother; and it was here that Nichol, Kate and Lucy Fleming grew up. After Peter's death at the age of 64, in 1972, while out shooting grouse in Scotland, the house and land became Nichol's.

Peter Fleming and Celia Johnson had married in 1935. He had already captured the country's imagination with his book Brazilian Adventure. News from Tartary appeared in 1936, recounting his extraordinary journey from Peking to Kashmir, following the ancient Silk Road, and became a classic. Celia Johnson was a great actress, best remembered for her role in David Lean's Brief Encounter. On the screen, she embodied an essentially English femininity; delicate and down to earth. On the stage, her range was enormous and her touch was light.

The glamour and fame of these parents probably explains Nichol Fleming's lack of personal ambition and his self- effacing, throwaway style. His wit was never cruel but could be gently deflating. Pomposity was anathema to him, and a friend's rather florid account of a trek through some of the wilder reaches of Tibet was politely curtailed with the words: "You have had a super hol."

Much of his life was shared with Christopher Balfour, a merchant banker. They met when both were in their early twenties and Nichol had prematurely come down from Oxford. They complemented each other perfectly, and were both keen "outdoorsmen", passionate about tennis and riding. Fleming would not kill anything, it must be said; such was his love of animals. They kept a pair of horses called Agatha and Christie, and perhaps he was happiest cantering over the Chilterns like a lone Cossack, with his father's somewhat Russian physiognomy.

Jonathan Hope

Nicholas Peter Val Fleming, writer: born London 3 January 1939; died Nettlebed, Oxfordshire 9 May 1995.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence