HE WAS the great-grandad who touched the hearts of hundreds with his colourful Christmas lights.

And now a special memorial has been unveiled in his honour.

Southampton-born celebrity gardener Charlie Dimmock revealed a unique garden feature on Broadwater Road in memory of Ivan Nicholls, who as previously reported died in January this year aged 91.

His festive decorations had been a much-loved feature in Townhill Park since the mid-1990s, bringing people from across Hampshire to enjoy the lights as he dressed up as Father Christmas handing out sweets and balloons.

Now Townhill Residents’ Association - one of the longest running residents’ association in the UK - has installed the memorial in the garden of Mr Nicholls’ family home, where his granddaughter Liz now lives.

Treasurer Lynne Symms said: “Ivan was a member of the association for a very long time, perhaps since it started in 1962. He paid his pound subscription every year.

“But we had some money in the kitty and we really wanted to do something to remember him. He did so much for the community.”

Ms Dimmock, who made her name appearing on Ground Force from 1997 to 2005, is a friend of the residents’ association and was “honoured” to be invited to unveil the memorial.

She said: “I think he did a huge amount for the people round here and I love things which bring people together.”

Born in 1925 in Shirley, Mr Nicholls was a carpenter at RH Hammond builders for 52 years, having started as an apprentice.

In 1945 Mr Nicholls, then 19, married Patricia Hodder, and undertook his national service in the Royal Navy and guarded Japanese POWs after the Second World War.

He had two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. His wife passed away in 2002.