London: Lord Gulam Noon, one of Britain’s most prominent Indian-origin peers and “curry king” of the UK, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 79.
Mumbai-born Lord Noon founded the 200-million pounds Noon Products business which is credited with Britain developing a taste for “chicken tikka masala”.
He had been battling with liver cancer for the past two years. He had briefly recovered following chemotherapy but his health deteriorated over the last six months.
“Today we have lost a giant, not only of the British Asian community, but also of British entrepreneurship. A decent, honourable and generous man, who was dedicated to his family, but also to his country, the United Kingdom,” said Keith Vaz, Britain’s longest-serving Indian-origin MP.
His condolence message read: “Rightly known as Britain’s first ‘Curry King’, he brought curry to the high street. There are thousands of people in Britain, in India and throughout the world who have benefited from his enterprise, jobs he created, and his big heart. The world of cricket will also miss one of its most devoted followers.”
“He was the epitome of everything a first generation immigrant can achieve, someone who literally came with nothing, but was also grateful to Britain for giving him the life chances to prove what an extraordinary man he was, whilst never forgetting his roots in India. Our community has lost one of its greatest stars,” Vaz added.
The funeral will take place in London tomorrow and there will be a minute’s silence at the Tiffin Cup final to pick the UK’s favourite curry restaurant at the House of Commons on Tuesday evening. A memorial meeting will be held in Parliament on November 2.
Leading NRI industrialist Lord Swraj Paul described Lord Noon as a “good friend and a great colleague”.
“We are proud of his achievements. My heart-felt condolences to his family,” he said.
London-based NRI hotelier and chairman of Bhavan UK Joginder Sanger, one of Lord Noon’s oldest friends, said: “He was a great friend and a strong believer in secularism. Irrespective of his own beliefs, he never hesitated to donate funds to temples and cultural centres of any background.”
Lord Noon, who also served as Chancellor of the University of East London, counted Prince Charles and his father, Prince Philip, among his friends. He was an avid cricket fan and his London office was adorned with a vast selection of cricket memorabilia.
A long-time supporter and donor of the Labour party, Lord Noon was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by Britain’s Opposition party in February this year.
Lord Noon arrived in London in 1966 on the day England won the football World Cup and after a stint in the US, made the UK his base.
He set up the iconic Noon Products, which went on to manufacture over 500 different chilled and frozen ready meals from factories at Southall in south-west London giving the country a taste for mildly spiced Indian food.