OBITUARIES: Nichol Fleming - People - News - The Independent

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.

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

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

HR Manager (standalone) - London

Up to £40,000: Ashdown Group: Standalone HR Manager role for an SME business b...

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week