AS the celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar and the death of Nelson come to an end - and as Remembrance Sunday approaches - NIGEL HEINS recalls Herefordshire's reaction to the passing of another national hero and how today that memory is sometimes tarnished.

"THE memory of the greatest man of the century will be kept green for all time in Herefordshire."

Those were the words of the opening paragraph of the front page lead of the Hereford Times in an edition 40 years ago, marking the death of Sir Winston Churchill.

And in a gesture rarely taken, this newspaper paid tribute to the wartime Prime Minister in a front page leader article.

It read: "Soldier, war correspondent, politician, historian, painter, Prime Minister, in whatever direction Sir Winston Churchill projected his remarkable talents and unflagging enthusiasm, the impact was immense - sometimes displeasing to friend and foe alike.

"It is doubtful whether one man has earned such a place for himself for posterity during his own lifetime. The chronicle of his years has, and will be, written and recounted for many a day.

"As long as the English language is spoken and read (and what a command of his native tongue Sir Winston had!) neither Britain nor the world can forget the example of the one man by whose very existence, perhaps, the causes of justice, freedom and peace were kept alive for millions."

Herefordshire was swept with a wave of pride, sorrow and gratitude and Churchill House and Gardens was so named to symbolise those emotions - to keep the memory "green for all time".

Today, all too often, those gardens can be a green, unpleasant land.

It is strange that at a time when Herefordshire has, in line with the rest of the country, been celebrating the contributions to our welfare of Nelson, that the memory of a far more recent national hero is being sullied.

Churchill Gardens, standing sentinel over the city, is frequently scattered with beer and cider cans, chip papers, plastic bottles and empty sandwich boxes.

The rubbish surrounds memorial plaques at the base of trees planted to celebrate the lives of lesser - but much-loved mortals.

And in the corner stands Churchill House, once, but no longer, the home for the artwork of a Hereford hero Brian Hatton who gave his life in another world war.

But how different it all was 40 years ago when Churchill's big heart finally gave up.

Leading the tributes in Hereford was Mayor Gordon Elcox, who totally endorsed the creation of the Venns Lane site into a Churchill memorial - "so that the great statesman will not be forgotten in the city".

The market towns' civic leaders, too, praised the great Englishman - EG Jones at Bromyard, AWT Bounds at Kington, F Barber in Leominster, FW Juckes, speaking for Ledbury, and CL Burrows, representing Ross-on-Wye.

A massive congregation of 1,500 filled Hereford Cathedral for a memorial service. Among them were the county's two MPs, David Gibson-Watt and Clive Bossom.

Paying homage to the man he described as "our human bulldog hero" the Bishop, The Rt Rev Mark Hodson told them all: "Under God we owe to him our lives here today. And even more we owe to him our freedom and the freedom of a great part of the modern world."

The streets of the towns and lanes of the villages were deserted while the funeral of Sir Winston was in progress.

Some shops closed for the morning, others for an hour, but with most people watching the ceremony on television or listening on radio, business was light.

But not everybody was remembering "Winnie" on his final journey.

Among the mourners at his funeral was his personal secretary, Anthony Montague Browne - the man who signed the death certificate.

His parents Lieut Col and Mrs AD Montague Browne lived at Bivia House, Goodrich, but his own home was at Eaton Place, Belgravia.

During the funeral a burglar broke into the house and stole jewellery. But, happily, the thief left behind something more precious - a painting by Sir Winston.