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Tributes to trains campaigner and former Deal councillor Ian Killbery who has died aged 74

Tributes have been paid to the man who successfully led a campaign to bring High Speed trains to Deal.

Ian Killbery, a former town and district councillor, died suddenly, having suffered years of bad health.

Ian Killbery in 2012. Picture: Wayne McCabe
Ian Killbery in 2012. Picture: Wayne McCabe

He battled for the fast trains to stop at the town after the service was introduced in December 2009 and that happened partially in 2011 and finally with an all-day and daily service in 2014.

That year he and fellow campaigner, Tom Rowland, were awarded the Railfuture User Group Gold Award for their efforts. The task was carried out through the pressure group Trains4Deal.

Mr Rowland now said: "It was Ian who spearheaded the campaign, who pointed out the injustice and quantified the damage to the local economy,

"He built up a highly effective local campaign, recruiting a talented team and after a four year battle, the Kent rail franchise was amended and the fast trains stopped in Deal.

"He will be missed so much by his family, colleagues and friends."

"He was always professional and courteous."

Sandwich town councillor Paul Carter said: "I knew Ian for at least 20 years and worked with him on many transportation and environmental projects in Deal and Sandwich.

"He was always a professional and courteous man who spent so much of his time on community based issues to make living in this part of Kent a much better experience. He will be sadly missed by so many."

Cllr Michael Conolly, chairman of Dover District Council, said: “We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former councillor Ian Killbery, and our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.”

Mr Killbery, who was in long term poor health, died at his home in Western Road, Deal, on Monday, September 20 ,aged 74.

He was a lifelong member of the Labour Party and served as a Dover district councillor for the Middle Deal ward from 1973 to 1991 and again from 1995 to 1999.

Ian Killbery, right, and Tom Rowland in 2014 after being awarded for helping bring a full time high speed service to Deal. Submitted picture
Ian Killbery, right, and Tom Rowland in 2014 after being awarded for helping bring a full time high speed service to Deal. Submitted picture

He was also a Deal town councillor where he was leader of the Labour majority for a time. This was also for Middle Deal from 1999 to 2007 and for North Deal from 2012 to 2015.

Ian Killbery was born in Portsmouth on February 1, 1947.

He was the the son of a Labour city councillor and dockyard worker. Mr Killbery was the first student from his school, then the Southern Grammar School for Boys, to go to Oxford University.

He won an open scholarship to Wadham College to read politics, philosophy and economics.

Mr Killbery began his career as a teacher, first in the north of England, then moving to Deal in the early 1970s to take up a post teaching economics at Dover Grammar School for Boys.

The first High Speed train stopping at Deal in September 2011.Picture: Martin Apps
The first High Speed train stopping at Deal in September 2011.Picture: Martin Apps

Mr Rowland said that throughout his working life, Mr Killbery was a pioneer in the world of education and developing technology.

He was seconded to Kings College London to be part of a team developing early computer aided learning materials for schools, the precursor of the online learning tools now.

Mr Killbery continued to develop new ways of using technology to bring children's lessons to life in his later role as Director of Kent Educational Television.

In 1994, he was diagnosed with kidney failure, took early retirement and began the first years of dialysis treatment followed by a kidney transplant in 1997.

At the same time, Mr Killbery and his partner Ilsa Rowe set up a new company, Early Start Languages, to promote the teaching of foreign languages in primary schools.

"We will bring his visions to life."

Their reputation of over 25 years has been built upon engaging films, featuring real French, Spanish and German children at home, at school and out and about in their communities.

Mr Killbery also suffered sight loss and despite having to shield during the height of the pandemic he continued to work and take an active part in local affairs.

Most recently he helped to plan and develop the White Cliffs Community Rail Partnership, which was launched on July 2 this year at Sandwich Railway Station.

The date of the celebration was chosen to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the electrification of Kent’s rail network.

Although very fragile Mr Killbery join the celebrations and travelled with the official party from Deal to Sandwich by train rather than by car.

Cllr Oliver Richardson: "We will honour him."
Cllr Oliver Richardson: "We will honour him."

WCCRP chairman Cllr Oliver Richardson said: "Ian was a very passionate member of our steering group.

"We will honour him by continuing to work hard and ensure we have a successful Community Rail Partnership and bring his visions to life."

Deal Town Council revealed that it had held a minute's silence for Mr Killbery at its last full meeting.

Mayor Chris Turner told Kent Online: “Ian was an enthusiastic campaigner for the High Speed service to Deal and Sandwich. " His knowledge of local transport issues was the reason the Deal Town Council transport and infrastructure committee was keen to co-opt him again in 2019.

"Councillors remember him with affection and respect for the contributions he made to the life of Deal.”

Cllr Ben Bano, a long term Labour colleague of Mr Killbery added “He will be greatly missed. May he rest in peace.”

Mr Killbery was also chairman of the Dover District Cycle Forum and sat on the Spokes East Kent Cycle Campaign Committee.

He was instrumental in creating the Skylark Trail – an alternative quiet cycle route between Deal and Dover following the tragic road death of 18 year old cyclist Daniel Squire on the Dover Road.

Mr Killbery is survived by Ms Rowe who was his partner of 30 years, their 16-year-old son Sammy plus his grown- up children Martin, Stephen and Emma.

He also leaves five grandchildren, James, Alex, Jude, Milly and Jasmin.

Read more: All the latest news from Deal

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