Mark Howe passed away at the end of January 2017 at the age of 69 following a mercifully short illness.He was a founder member of the 009 Society, one-time Editor of 009 News and the backbone of the Beds and Bucks Group.
As member number two, Mark was in effect the first person to join the 009 Society, cajoled into it by his good friend Mike Higgins, who formed the Society back in 1973. From those original 15-20 members who responded to the notice in Railway Modeller, the Society has grown to its 1800+ worldwide membership we see today. I don’t think Mark ever anticipated the heights it would reach.
His interests developed from an early age. Mark bought his first copy of Railway Modeller with the proceeds from a teenage Saturday job in Woolworths. By chance, that month’s issue had the Craig & Mertonford on the cover, leading to a lifelong appreciation – like so many of his generation – for the work of PD Hancock and narrow gauge modelling.
Mark wasn’t the most prolific of modellers over the years– I recall mention of three 009 layouts, there may have been more – but he regularly produced a number of well-constructed kit built and modified items which suited his own little modelling world. Barton Mills, exhibited at the Luton Anglian Group exhibition in 1978 (entrance fee Adults 25p, Children 10p!), was followed by Bad Heidrichstein, a German layout, and most recently Stanton Lacey. Mark left the Society for a while to follow another of his interests – bus modelling – but came back to us in the early 2000s. With that cheeky sense of humour of his, I remember him telling me, “If you think narrow gauge modellers are strange, you should see the bus modellers!”
Like many of us, Mark was at a bit of a crossroads with his modelling in recent times. I recall an afternoon in 2016 when we sat down and tried to come up with ideas for a way forward. We sorted out proposals for a permanent layout for his shed in the garden and a small table top exhibition layout to be built in 09 – he wanted to try something different so we’ll forgive him for that! Sadly, despite laying out a few lengths of track and buildings, it was not to be.
Mark’s layouts were full of character and detail. To help him and his wife Terri at a show was to observe two people who, I think, got more enjoyment from showing the layout and details to parents and children than from discussing narrow gauge with the enthusiasts.
Mark started the old Anglian Group back in the mid-1970s and was an early member of the Northampton Group. Finding that their evening meetings didn’t suit his working arrangements, he formed the Beds and Bucks Group, originally based at his home in Barton but today outgrowing that and having to regularly meet in village halls to give enough space for us to enjoy our hobby. Mark was very much the driving force of the Group, undertaking much of the original organisation himself– including eleven Members’ Days. Although he had handed over many of the duties to others over the last couple of years, he was still very much the backbone of the Group.
Mark’s work was in waste management, most recently running his own consultancy business. It was the flexibility of working for himself that gave him the time and opportunity to take on editing 009 News, taking over from Simon Coward in May 2007. On retirement from work, he decided to stand down and handed over to Tom Dauben and Steve Fulljames in April 2013.
His business experience was of great benefit to the Committee during those years. He was often the voice of reason, with a dislike of the waffle that we’re prone to come up with. Like many of us, he had a healthy cynicism for authority and always conducted his input with good humour and common sense. He was a great sounding board for me in particular when I was Chairman. He would listen to my thoughts and frustrations with good grace and always helped with useful comments and suggestions.
It has been gratifying to read various email responses to the news of his passing from friends and Group members. ‘Encouraging’ and ‘supportive’, ‘fun’ and ‘gentleman’ are just some of the words that keep cropping up. Mark was one of the good guys and a good friend to all those who knew him. We will all miss him very much. Our thoughts, of course, are with Terri and son Ian, their family and friends. Rest in Peace.