Remembering my friend Nick Daubney
Regarded by many as Mr West Norfolk, Nick Daubney not only led the local authority for almost a decade, but he also played a huge part in shaping the lives of local people and the wider business community. Following his death in May, Paul Sheerin reflects on his life and legacy…
The 19th of June 2023 was a meaningful and memorable day for King’s Lynn, as over 500 people packed into the historic Minster church to bid a fond farewell to a pillar of the local community. One of the town’s most well-known and widely respected residents, Honorary Alderman and former borough mayor Nick Daubney was remembered at his funeral.
A passionate advocate for anything and everything to do with West Norfolk, Nick impacted so many lives and dedicated much of his own to serving the local area. As one of his longstanding business associates and closest friends, Paul Sheerin of Hawkins Ryan Solicitors led the tributes at his funeral. Having known Nick Daubney for almost four decades, Paul saw the courage, compassion, and determination his friend devoted to enriching the community he loved.
“Nick was one of the first people I met when I came to King’s Lynn in 1985, and we remained firm friends until the day he died,” he says. “Throughout his inspiring career, one of the things that really stood out about him was his passion for supporting the local community and particularly local businesses. He was a man of principle, generosity and wisdom who loved listening to people. He’d always make time for you, no matter how minor your concern might be. No problem was ever too small, and nothing was ever too much trouble.”
This commitment to helping local firms prosper is something Nick Daubney will always be admired for, and it was business that brought him to King’s Lynn in the first place. He was born in Holbeach in 1950, attended boarding school in Harrogate and pursued his love for engineering with an apprenticeship at David Brown Tractors in Huddersfield. He became a copywriter for the company before moving into a marketing role, producing and appearing in many promotional videos.
A new venture began in the early 1980s when Nick’s father started up Standard Capital Finance in King’s Lynn and asked his son to help him grow the business.
I doubt King’s Lynn would have seen much of the investment and prosperity it enjoys today if it wasn’t for his inspirational work
“He knew it was an opportunity not to be missed and threw himself into the firm, working with his father to transform it into the second largest finance broker in the country,” says Paul. “He also threw himself into the local community, becoming involved with the Conservative Association and using his warm personality to form a network of people who would remain close friends for the rest of his life.”
However, disaster struck for Nick during the national recession of 1992 when high interest rates and low growth brought about the demise of the business he’d worked so hard to build. The flood of finance applications landing on Standard Capital’s doormat each morning dried up and mortgage rates doubled overnight. During this difficult time, many competitors chose to go bust before swiftly starting up again - leaving a shameful mass of debt trailing behind them. Not Nick Daubney.
“It’s often said that adversity is a good test of character, and this challenge certainly showed what Nick was made of. He kept going and worked his way through, ensuring every single person he owed was paid.” says Paul. “He was determined to keep moving forwards when the firm collapsed, choosing to dedicate his time to supporting other businesses. His strength of character and honesty at that difficult time are a lesson for us all.”
Placing the interests of local companies at his heart, Nick started work at the old Enterprise Agency and went on to become manager of the newly formed West Norfolk Business Development Centre before moving to its successor (Businesslink) and eventually to Norfolk & Waveney Enterprise Services. He also played a key role in local politics, joining the King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Council in 1999 and working tirelessly to deliver the best outcome for the region’s residents in every decision he was called upon to make.
“Along with his unwavering commitment to West Norfolk, Nick’s ability to understand and empower individuals made him a brilliant business advisor,” says Paul. “A number of the messages his widow Cheryl has received since his passing have come from people wanting to express their gratitude for the help he gave them. Many business owners still feel thankful 10 to 15 years on, as they put much of their success down to what Nick did for them when they started out.”
After leading the council for almost a decade, Nick was delighted to become borough Mayor in 2018 and channelled his compassion, knowledge, and enthusiasm into strengthening the community he cared for. He also worked to support local charities, including the Purfleet Trust and King’s Lynn Night Shelter, which provide what Nick regarded as essential services in a civilised society. He was proud of this achievement and, more recently, of being made an Honorary Alderman in recognition of his loyal service to the area.
“Nick himself was very modest about his successes and held a great deal of respect for the views of others. However, I doubt King’s Lynn would have seen much of the investment and prosperity it enjoys today if it wasn’t for his inspirational work,” says Paul. “He was a place-shaper who used his exceptional skills to build a bright future for scores of local firms, and I’m sure he’ll be widely remembered as Mr West Norfolk.”
Most importantly for Paul and many others, Nick was a companion who could always be counted on. “He was often a man of few words and could be very grumpy at times, but that genuine trademark smile was never far from his face,” Paul remembers. “He touched many people’s lives and enriched them all, and I feel privileged to have called him my friend. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him and fondly remembered within the county he loved and much further afield too.”
PICTURES: © PAUL TIBBS