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Knighthood for Richard “Dicky” Evans in The King’s New Year’s Honours list.
Richard “Dicky” Evans OGW has accepted His Majesty The King’s invitation to become a Knight Commander in the Order of St Michael and St George in recognition of his business, sporting and charitable services to Kenya and Cornwall. He will be titled Sir Richard Evans, KCMG OGW.
Sir Richard said, “I couldn’t be more surprised or honoured. I have been blessed throughout my life with the support of family, friends and thousands of wonderful people with whom I have worked and played. I am deeply grateful to His Majesty King Charles for conferring this honour upon me. We both have deep rooted connections to Cornwall and to Kenya and I hope that this award will further highlight the beauty and strength of both lands and their peoples.”
Sir Richard was born in Penzance, shortly after the end of World War 2. As a young man he represented Cornwall schools at Athletics, Swimming, Football and, in particular, Rugby, playing for his local team, Penzance & Newlyn RFC. He left Cornwall for Kings College, London where he studied civil engineering and captained the rugby team. In 1969 he was posted to Uganda to build UN funded clean water systems. He was teaching local engineers there when two were murdered following Idi Amin’s Coup D’Etat of 1971. He was evacuated back to the Water Research Centre in the UK but returned later that year to Kenya where he initially worked on the World Bank funded Mombasa water supply.
In Kenya he used his water engineering skills to improve the quality of fruit, vegetable and flower growing, and subsequently set up his own horticulture company, Homegrown Ltd, in 1982. This initially supplied Covent Garden market with fine beans and strawberries, subsequently becoming famous for supplying very high-quality roses to major UK supermarkets. Initially, to produce the best quality possible, he moved the wavelength of light into the optimum range for growing roses through the fabrication of special greenhouse covers. On the back of Homegrown’s growth and along with close friend, Martin Hudson, he established Flamingo Holdings, a UK distribution company in 1994, which continues to supply leading retailers to this day.
Sir Richard is credited with substantially improving Kenya’s balance of payments and for opening up market opportunities that created jobs and economic growth over several decades. Such was his influence that President Moi appointed him Chairman of the Export Promotion Council in 1992, charged with expanding Kenya’s foreign exchange earnings. In 1996 he was awarded the Order of the Grand Warrior (OGW), one of Kenya’s highest Honours, for his services to agribusiness.
After selling his horticultural interests in 2007, he established the award winning Hemingways group of luxury boutique hotels and the Hemingways travel business for both of which he remains Chairman. Following the success of the Hemingways hotel at Watamu on the Kenya Indian Ocean coast and the Hemingways Ol Seki safari camp in the Masai Mara, he was responsible for the design and management of the construction of the world-famous Hemongways hotel in Nairobi, modelled on the Augusta Masters clubhouse. The Hemingways Group goes from strength to strength and continues to increase its impact on conservation in Watamu and the Masai Mara as well as community rugby in Nairobi and the South Coast.
As a young man, Sir Richard continued to play rugby. In Africa he played for Kampala in Uganda and on arrival in Kenya joined the famous Nondescripts RFC. He went on to Captain his club, the Kenya International team known as The Simbas, and a combined East Africa team known as The Tuskers.
Over several years in the 1990’s Sir Richard came to the rescue of Penzance and Newlyn RFC, including paying off the mortgage on their Clubhouse. When the club was in serious difficulty he stepped in and funded its survival. He carried on as the major benefactor and under his leadership, and with a new name, the Cornish Pirates rose through the rugby tiers, from the second from bottom league to the Championship and firmly established themselves as a top 20 English rugby team.
In 2019 Truro City Football Club, Cornwall’s leading football club, faced their own threat to survival and Dicky stepped in, supported them through Covid, three years in exile playing in Devon, and saw them promoted last year to the National League South.
Diagnosed in 2011 with Parkinson’s Disease, Sir Richard announced a “Sunset Plan” in 2022 for the future of the Cornish Pirates and Truro City enabling him to pass on the baton for professional sport in Cornwall to new owners and investors, while the clubs are strong and successful. New owners came forward recently for TCFC and he wishes the football club continued success under its new leadership. It was his long-term championing of Cornish sport, culture and heritage that led to his investiture in 2013 as a Cornish Bard, and the awarding of his Cornish name “Morlader Pensans” – the Pirate of Penzance.
Living with Parkinson’s led Sir Richard to establish a new website named ‘livetobe100yearsold.com’ with the stated aim of helping like-minded individuals combat the downside of degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and dementia, whilst living life to the full. He certainly follows this creed spending many hours big-game fishing for marlin, which are then tagged and released under a conservation system championed by him in Kenya.
While well recognised in business and a generous benefactor to Kenyan and UK sports, Sir Richard is extremely private about his wider philanthropy. It is only recently that it has emerged that he funded schools, individuals in need of urgent medical treatment, and the living costs of disabled or parentless children in the UK and in Kenya.