Harborough farmer's inspirational message of hope – a year after winning a terrifying life-and-death battle with Covid-19

Hylton Murray-Philipson was famously wished well by his good friend Prince Charles as he won a desperate 12-day battle to beat the virus as his dramatic story made headlines nationally and even went worldwide.

Monday, 22nd March 2021, 10:21 pm

A farmer is sending out an inspirational message of hope for the people of Harborough – a year after winning a terrifying life-and-death battle with Covid-19.

Upbeat Hylton Murray-Philipson, 61, said the future’s looking much brighter as almost 28 million people have now been vaccinated against the coronavirus in the UK – and the country targets the end of the pandemic lockdown.

Hylton was famously wished well by his good friend Prince Charles as he won a desperate 12-day battle to beat the virus as his dramatic story made headlines nationally and even went worldwide.

Hylton being given a medics guard of honour as he leaves the LRI on Friday April 3

Now the fascinating Harborough conservationist said he’s been “reborn” and given a fantastic second chance at life as he’s roared back from being taken to death’s door.

Talking eloquently to the Harborough Mail in a wide-ranging interview, Hylton said: “We are definitely turning a corner.

“Over half the adults in the UK have now been vaccinated.

“The vaccination programme has gone brilliantly and as a nation we should be very proud of that.

Hylton Murray-Philipson just after his battle with Covid, with his sons Jim and Luke.

“We are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel - and we can all look forward to getting back to normal again.”

The former top international banker spoke at great length from his 1,000-acre Blaston Estate farm at Blaston, near Medbourne, as we turn a year since the first national Covid lockdown was imposed on March 23, 2020.

“I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and reliving those dark days when I was on the edge.

“It’s amazing to think that 12 months ago my life was literally hanging in the balance.

“I could easily have died, it was that close.

“It’s been a very intense time for me as it’s all come back,” admitted Hylton.

The inspiring dad-of-two was rushed into Leicester Royal Infirmary on March 21 last year after being laid low by Covid.

Poignantly he was taken in just 24 hours after his well-known father Robin Murray-Philipson, 92, the former High Sheriff of Leicestershire, passed away.

“At this time last year I was lying there helpless in the Intensive Care Unit at the LRI.

“I was so ill and it was so touch and go that I very nearly didn’t make it back home,” the devoted eco-farmer recalled.

Stricken Hylton lay fighting for his life as his two sons, Jim, 23, and Luke, 19, desperately tried to get home to see and support their dad.

Jim had been studying at university in California and Luke was travelling in Chile - while Hylton’s wife Nicola sadly died in 2016.

“My sister-in-law and godmother pulled out all the stops to help get my boys back.

“It’s sobering to think that they may have been coming back for my funeral,” said Hylton, who used to sit on the Advisory Council to the Rainforests Project of the Prince of Wales.

“It was one of the happiest moments in my life when I was reunited with Jim and Luke.

“And I’ve had a wonderful time with my boys since on our farm when normally they would have been travelling around the world.

“Waves of extreme darkness were quickly followed by extreme light.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about the cycle and rhythms of life.

“We have come through a long dark Covid winter – and life is starting to burst through again,” said Hylton.

“The frogspawn, magnolias, daffodils, cherry blossom – it’s just magnificent to see.

“It feels incredible just to be here – and to be talking to you at the Harborough Mail.

“I’m seeing the world through a very different lens.

“Just give me toast and marmalade and I’m happy!

“I appreciate the beauty of a daisy, a daffodil and a primrose.

“I was looking at my father’s grave just this morning and that makes you think.

“But the spring is coming, the nights are getting lighter and there is wonder out there in the natural world all the time,” said Hylton.

Saluting the NHS “heroes” who saved his life, he said: “I celebrated my 61st birthday in Leicester Royal Infirmary on April 2 last year.

“A lovely nurse who looked after me called Pretty gave me a shave for my birthday present.

“And after 12 days in hospital it was one of the best presents I’ve ever had!

“I think of a nurse called Maggie and Dr Chris Miller who were so good to me.

“I think of them all the time.

“All of the NHS treated me with such kindness, compassion and care that I’m actually welling up as I tell you this,” said Hylton, who also paid tribute to his indomitable mum Nini, 85, still very much by his side at their family farm.

“It’s very emotional.

“I was that ill I was just like a baby – I couldn’t do anything for myself.

“The work that the NHS do day in day out is heroic.

“I try to remember all of those who helped me in their own way.

“Not just the medical staff but the porters, kitchen workers, the ambulance crew who took me to hospital.

“It’s amazing to think of all the people in the NHS coming together and saving so many lives – it’s very powerful.

“They have been putting themselves at serious risk for over a year now.

“NHS staff know they are going into the line of fire treating Covid patients like me – and they’re going above and beyond the call of duty.

“They must be exhausted after all this time working all hours to save people such as me.

“I keep in touch with them and I sent the staff of the LRI’s Ward 6 – where I was treated – a Christmas hamper as a thank you gesture.

“Piers Morgan reunited me with Pretty, Maggie and Dr Miller on ITV’s Good Morning Breakfast last autumn and it was very moving.”

The farmer who’s fought for years to stop devastating deforestation in the Amazonian rainforests in Brazil said he’s recovered amazingly well from his traumatic brush with death.

“I have been reborn.

“I’ve just planted 250 trees here.

“I will do everything I can to defend and protect our planet in the time I’ve got here,” said Hylton, who has an unbreakable Christian faith.

“I had a powerful religious vision when I was on the edge last year.

“I am here for a purpose.

“I needed help to get me through this and I wasn’t ready to cross over.

“I want to leave our farm in the best condition I can.

“I’m planting more trees, improving the soil and looking at the whole picture – as well as working flat out to stop climate change.”

Eminently likeable and highly philosophical, he has kept in touch with Prince Charles, a committed conservationist himself.

“I had a Zoom meeting with him a couple of months ago and for the first time there was a dress code – I had to wear a tie!

“But that’s the least I could do since the prince sent me a personal message wishing me well when I was very ill.

“That was very good of him,” said Hylton.

“Prince Charles started the Zoom meeting by telling everyone involved how delighted he was to see me there alive and well.

“He has a restless energy and has a great commitment to a much more sustainable future.”

Hylton said he recovered remarkably quickly after being allowed to go home from hospital early last April.

“I was having to actually practice walking up and down the stairs before leaving hospital because my muscles just wasted away after being bedridden for two weeks.

“But I was walking to our farm’s bluebell wood within days of getting back – and that’s a mile away.

“My spirit recovered quickly.

“But it took me four months to put back on the weight I’d lost.

“I’m 5ft 9ins tall and weighed just under 10 stone.

“I plunged to just over eight stone.

“But I’ve not suffered long Covid as some poor people have thank goodness and I’m fit and strong again,” he said.

“We all need targets and goals.

“And I realised a dream when I climbed Ben Loyal, a tough mountain up on the northern coast of the Scottish Highlands, last September.

“That was very fulfilling, I loved getting to the top after I got it all wrong two years ago.

“I do think we are becoming a more caring society and I’m very encouraged that we are starting to do more to look after our precious environment.

“I appreciate life as never before and I’ll continue to live life to the full until my very last day,” insisted Hylton.