A Pembrokeshire farmer, prolific letter writer and former chairman and life president of the Welsh Conservative Party has died.

It is understood that Sir Eric Howells CBE, of Llanddewi Velfrey, near Narberth, died in Withybush Hospital on Wednesday, April 12, following a short illness.

Sir Eric, who was 89, was a sixth-generation cattle farmer, raising dairy herds before moving onto beef production at the 300 acre Upper Fron Farm, Llanddewi Velfrey.

He rose to the top under Margaret Thatcher's leadership. The Iron Lady asked him to become treasurer of the Conservative Party but he turned her down, citing his farming commitments. She later appointed Jeffrey Archer.

Western Telegraph: Sir Eric Howells and wife Lady Maisie at a presentation at Bethel Chapel in 2017..Sir Eric Howells and wife Lady Maisie at a presentation at Bethel Chapel in 2017.. (Image: Western Telegraph)

In the nineties Sir Eric was chairman and president of the Welsh Conservatives. He said that the Conservative vote in the constituency increased from 770 to 9,300 during that time.

In 2007 he was expelled from the party after he rebelled over its selection of AM candidate for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire.

He was also one of the founding directors of the Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire milk co-operative Llaeth Cymreig and a former chairman of the National Farmers Union in Pembrokeshire After he left the party he became a prolific letter writer, with letters appearing in the Western Telegraph on all manner of subjects including politics, the EU, farming, bovine TB and the Welsh Assembly.

He is predeceased by his wife Lady Margaret Maisie Howells who died in March last year. The couple celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary in 2020.

They had three children and were grandparents and great grandparents.

Preseli Pembrokeshire Conservative MP, Stephen Crabb, said in an interview with the BBC: "I was saddened to hear about the passing of Sir Eric Howells CBE.

"Sir Eric was a man of courage and strong principle who never flinched from speaking out on behalf of what he believed.

"He will be greatly missed, and my thoughts and wishes are with his family and friends at this time."