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Obituary: Paul Hickman – longstanding Pennington councillor and teacher

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TRIBUTES have been paid to a former Lymington and Pennington councillor after his death aged 74.

Paul Hickman was a well-respected Pennington resident, having moved there in 1984. He championed it as a town and district councillor, chair of Pennington Community Action Group and a governor at Pennington Junior School.

He was also active on the town’s twinning committee, forging relationships with Lymington’s twin towns of Vitre, France; Almansa, Spain; and Mosbach, Germany.

Paul Hickman
Paul Hickman

As a Liberal Democrat he won the New Forest District Council Pennington seat in 2003, which he retained until standing down in 2011. He was particularly proud to have helped secure a children’s centre.

The New Forest Lib Dems said the party was “deeply saddened”. His friend Cllr David Harrison said: “Paul was a very positive, upbeat, personality who did a great job supporting the needs of local people.

“He was particularly strong when it came to environmental matters, helping raise issues long before many other politicians even realised what was going wrong.”

Cllr Martina Humber, who represented Pennington alongside Paul, said: “He was an exceptionally good local councillor who cared very much about his constituents.

“He was a very caring person, a lovely man and understood people well. You never heard anybody with a bad word to say about Paul.”

Cllr Jack Davies added: “Paul helped so many in Pennington. He was so loved.”

Born in the Black Country in 1947, Paul was a talented linguist who studied Russian and French at the University of Aberystwyth. There he met his future wife, Gill, and they married in 1970.

After graduation Paul briefly taught modern languages at Testwood School in Totton. He and Gill moved to the New Forest in 1971, renting a cottage attached to an old Methodist chapel at Longdown.

Paul would recount how the cottage was not in the best condition, and the floor at one end of a room would lift when someone stood on the opposite side of the room.

Paul and Gill subsequently moved to the Custards, Lyndhurst, and in 1977 to Manchester Road, Sway. By that time Paul had secured a job teaching A-level French, German and Russian at Brockenhurst College.

His twin children, Simon and Rachael, were born in 1978 and were a source of pride throughout Paul’s life.

Paul’s love of languages took him across Europe after the fall of the Iron curtain in 1989 as many schools in former communist countries wanted to teach English instead of Russian. He worked extensively in the Czech Republic and Poland throughout the 1990s, giving guidance and advice on how to teach English.

Paul loved trains and rail travel, and in Poland his command of languages made it easy to negotiate a position on the footplate of a steam locomotive. On several occasions he even found himself offered the chance to drive the train!

He was an early enthusiast for computer programming, and in the 1980s worked with the BBC to develop language learning programs for students.

Paul was a genuine pioneer for Computer Assisted Language Learning and developed programs for French, Italian and German language learning.

On taking early retirement from his final teaching position at La Sante Union college in Southampton, he ran a software consultancy in Lyndhurst.

The onset of dementia robbed Paul of a long retirement, but he enjoyed supporting Gill in environmental activities and continued to ride his bicycle – a legacy of his campaigning for cycling improvements as a councillor.

Paul loved his grandchildren, Abi and Morris, and his family summed him up as “a lovely, kind and generous man”.

He is survived by Gill, Rachael, and Simon, his sister Debbie and grandchildren. His funeral will take place at 10.30am on Wednesday 2nd February at St Mark’s Church, Pennington. All are welcome.

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