Louis Nicollin, the Lyonnais fell in love with the Petite Camargue: his relatives and friends remember with emotion

Louis Nicollin from Lyon fell in love with the Petite Camargue as soon as he arrived in Montpellier at the end of the sixties. The emperor of garbage cans and emblematic president of the Montpellier Hérault football club had also integrated a kingdom into this wild nature that he loved so much, from the Mas Saint-Gabriel to the Tour d’Anglas in the Gard. In Marsillargues, where he has been resting for five years, relatives and friends remember with emotion his passion for the village and the world of bulls.

It’s an almost ordinary grave, at the end of the alley. We wouldn’t stop there if the many homage plaques hadn’t depicted the legendary character and kindness of the character in the marble. Employees of his company SMN, the football club, sports associations or bullfighting traditions…

The void left by Louis Nicollin unleashed a flood of tears as diverse as they were sincere. This is where he left his soul to rest in the small cemetery of Marsillargues, five years ago already, many years after having opened his heart to this wild land.

He fell in love with the white and black horses of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

“The story, you know it like me. When he arrived in the region, at the end of the 60s, he fell in love with the white and black horses of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer”, says Geoffrey Barbeyrac, the former driver and confidant who still manages the Nicollin herd and the estate and vineyard of the Tour d’Anglas, near Vauvert, where Loulou had bought land. Fascinated, no doubt, that this tower would have been built in 1280 by King Philippe le Hardi for the Countess of Anglas, with whom he had fallen in love… just as he himself had bought and enlarged the Saint-Gabriel de Marsillargues farmhouse for his wife Colette, child of the country.

She was on the benches of the school with my father, she is very village like we say hereconfides Richard Amphoux, owner of the restaurant Chez Richard, La table d’amis, where Loulou had his habits, facing the castle. It was his canteen, he smiled. He arrived at least once a week, on Thursdays, and sometimes on Fridays, with guests, but most often Michel Mézy and Geoffrey. He was more into the diet here, fish and vegetables. He liked cod brandade but you shouldn’t tell him it was from Nîmes (laughs).

Loulou, Grand Lord of Petite Camargue

“He loved nature, the Petite Camargue suited him well”, slips Michel Mézy. In the main room of the restaurant, around the table where the siblings sat, still stands the wooden chair stamped “Loulou”. An attention that he liked, he who never balked at sharing selfies, “always happy to meet people, to share and keep up to date with what was going on, village gossip that sometimes made him laugh”, Richard admits.

bull lover

It is preserved on the 350 ha of his farmhouse that the emblematic president of the MHSC became most of his time, as close as possible to his land and to these animals he loved so much. Especially his bulls that he brooded, in his own words, as “a noble beast and a local heritage”.

“He made his rounds of the farmhouse all the time and going to see his bulls was a pleasure, confirms Christian Pelatan. Above all, it was not necessary to tell him if one of them was dead. He was very sensitive and respectful of the animal cause.” The Gardois still manages these gargantuan collections of jerseys, pennants, bicycles and all the relics of world sport that make this pavilion of the farmhouse the largest sports museum in France.

“There is not a day when we do not talk about him”

To the size of the character. “We are taking inventory and preparing what will go into the future museum of the new stadium.” History to make public this passion that Loulou maintained all his life like the eternal kid that he was.

If his fabulous heritage remains private, the links forged between Louis and the Marsillarguois were as deep as the gaping emptiness, on this chair, where one would swear to still hear him harangue his guests. “He helped us so much, launched the catering activity. There is not a day when we do not talk about him”, finished Richard Amphoux, moved. A memory forever frozen in stone and in hearts.

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