A COMPÈRE extraordinaire known as ‘the voice of Ringwood’ who had an unfaltering dedication for his community and beloved family, has died.

The market town of Ringwood has lost its most recognisable voice with the passing of the much-loved Michael Lingam-Willgoss, who presided over the town’s carnival, pedal car grand prix and countless other events for decades.

It was an unmistakable charm possessed by Michael which made him an easy fit for the many community roles he held over the years, which included being president of both Ringwood Carnival and the Rotary club.

His indelible mark was mostly left on his family, to whom he was totally devoted as a loving husband, father and grandfather.

Bournemouth Echo: The 'voice of Ringwood' Michael Lingam-Willgoss has died aged 78The 'voice of Ringwood' Michael Lingam-Willgoss has died aged 78

Michael Lingam-Willgoss was born on November 15, 1943, in Lowestoft, Suffolk, to parents Olive and Les. He also had an older sister named Jeanie who had a daughter, Michael’s niece, Sharon.

Olive and Les would both live to the ripe old ages of 96 and 101 respectively.

Quick to begin his life, Michael left home at 17 to join the RAF and was posted abroad to Crete. It was here that he joined the Army’s dramatics society, sparking an early foray into public speaking.

Michael returned to Lowestoft aged 22 and took up a job as a driving instructor until a favourite uncle, who had a local grocer shop, passed away causing Michael to take over its running until it was sold.

In 1968 Michael would meet the love of his life, a young nursing student named Mani. It was the end of year student party and Mani was let down by her date at the last minute. Her friend Bernita told Mani of a “very nice chap” who was a friend of her boyfriend and also going to the ball.

Upon seeing the chap in question, a 25-year-old named Michael with long hair and a beard, Mani thought ‘this isn’t going to work’. How wrong she was.

Bournemouth Echo: Michael Lingam-Willgoss and his wife ManiMichael Lingam-Willgoss and his wife Mani

After two years of courting, Mani told Michael “I think we should get married now”, to which he replied “okay”.

After they were married in Singapore, the happy couple lived in London for a year before moving to Dorset in 1973 where they bought a house in Christchurch.

Michael was running his own business selling office equipment at the time and also joined the New Milton Players, re-kindling his love of performing.

In 1976 they moved to Ringwood, the town Michael would love and remain in for the rest of his life. Two years later the couple welcomed their only child, Candice, who was described as “the apple of Mike’s eye”. He fondly called her 'Bundle' and the two shared similar interests in music, skiing and wine.

Bournemouth Echo: Michael Lingam-Willgoss with his daughter Candice and wife ManiMichael Lingam-Willgoss with his daughter Candice and wife Mani

He would eventually become more involved in the town of Ringwood by becoming a commentator for the annual carnival event, soon establishing himself as role's MVP.

A friend recalled: “Mike would always volunteer for everything and we would say ‘give Mike a mic and he is off and running’. Everything he took on always ended up being much more than he originally signed up for.”

In 1982 he was introduced to the Rotary Club of Ringwood and would become its president on several occasions where he would help raise thousands of pounds for good causes.

He also lent his vocal skills to the popular British Pedal Car Grand Prix at Ringwood first in 1987 when he got the call to say a commentator was urgently needed.

“I was suddenly being asked to jump in at the deep end,” Michael recalled in a 2012 interview.

Ultimately, Michael contributed to as many local events and services as he could. As well as the carnival and grand prix, he made huge contributions to the Citizens Advice Bureau, the Ellingham Show, the Christmas Eve event, Tenovus Cancer Care and served as a church warden at Ellingham.

Not limited to the confines of Ringwood, Michael and Mani owned St Anne's Nursing Home in Southbourne for an incredible 30 years until their retirement in 2018.

A tribute written to Michael read: “Ringwood Market Place was his theatre, his stage, guiding through proceedings when hundreds gathered.

“Michael was the voice of Ringwood, bringing to the microphone his wit and humour.”

In January, Michael was diagnosed with cancer which he tackled with brave determination.

He died peacefully on Monday March 21. He was 78 years old.

Bournemouth Echo: The 'voice of Ringwood' Michael Lingam-Willgoss has died aged 78The 'voice of Ringwood' Michael Lingam-Willgoss has died aged 78

Michael is survived by his loving wife of 52 years Mani, their daughter Candice and granddaughter Isabella. His funeral was held at Ellingham Church in a service filled with family and friends.

At Michael’s funeral, a friend said: “He was always committed to whatever he took on, and did everything with a smile. His gracious, friendly way made him the enigmatic gentleman that we all knew and loved.

“So, let’s do what he said and celebrate him and his wonderful life.”