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Obituary: Mark Abbott – former Lyndhurst parish councillor was eyes and ears of village

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LONGSTANDING former Lyndhurst parish councillor and steam enthusiast Mark Abbott has died at the age of 84.

Well known as a postman working in the village and Minstead for around nine years, Mark loved the New Forest, where he lived for most of his life, apart from a short period in Brighton.

Born in 1937, he was educated at Lyndhurst Primary and Brockenhurst Grammar schools.

Mark Abbott worked as a postman in Minstead and Lyndhurst
Mark Abbott worked as a postman in Minstead and Lyndhurst

Always interested in railways, in particular steam locomotives, he became an engineering apprentice at Eastleigh Locomotive Works in 1954.

The role involved five years’ training in different parts of the works including the foundries, machine shop, boilershop and erecting shop as well as in the running shed and drawing office.

He was later involved with locomotives and rolling stock before retiring from the railway in 1994. Mark then worked as a postman in Minstead and Lyndhurst until he was 65.

Even after leaving the railways, his continuing interest involved taking thousands of photographs of steam locomotives and road transport vehicles, which were carefully recorded in notebooks.

Mark was a great collector with many items gathered from the railway, particularly after the demise of steam.

Throughout his life Mark had a keen interest in the New Forest and local Lyndhurst affairs, serving as a parish councillor for 49 years.

He was known as the eyes and ears of the village – regularly spotting and reporting faults with roads, potholes, damaged signs and other defects.

As chair of the planning committee for many years, he was meticulous in checking applications, visiting sites and meeting those involved.

Mark’s love of the national park led him to amass an impressive collection of New Forest books, photographs, postcards and ephemera.

Mark was well known for driving a steamroller or traction engine to local rallies including events at Beaulieu, Netley Marsh Steam Fair and the Great Dorset Steam Fair.

In 1959 he and his brother Paul restored a steamroller and later a traction engine at Meadow End, Brockenhurst. There they ran the steam locomotive on Dudley Alexander’s miniature railway which had regular open days in aid of the International League for the Protection of Horses.

Mark’s brother Paul recalled: “The engine restorations in the open in the corner of a field, with no electricity, involved a lot of hand work with old-style tools.

“Mark then took his roller driving test in Wilverley Road Brockenhurst – before he had a car driving licence.

“The Beaulieu rallies were his first destination with the roller which later spent many years in the National Motor Museum.

“Mark’s enthusiasm for the New Forest and Lyndhurst, railways, traction engines and, in particular, steam never wavered. He was not one to promote himself.”

Mark was married to Heather for many years, and was stepfather to sons Tim and Sean.

He died at the New Forest Nursing Home in Fritham on 1st July. His funeral service will be at St Micheal and All Angels Church, Lyndhurst, on Monday 25th July at 11.30am followed by committal at Bolton’s Bench Cemetery at 12.30pm.

Anyone wishing to donate in Mark’s memory can give to Guide Dogs for the Blind or Cancer Research UK c/o J. & L. Sturney funeral directors, Lyndhurst.

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