Published: 15:25, 21 February 2021
| Updated: 17:10, 03 March 2021
Tributes have poured in for Mark Ellen who played drums with 60s pop group Vanity Fare for 44 years and also represented Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey as a Labour councillor on Swale council since 2005.
Mark, 72, died suddenly on Thursday last week. He was also a presenter on community radio station Sheppey FM.
Swale council’s leader and fellow Labour member Cllr Roger Truelove said: “We in the local Labour Party are having to come to terms with the death of one of our most experienced councillors. He will be missed by the community on Sheppey and by those who followed him as an outstanding drummer.
“He was a good socialist with roots in Scotland. He was a good councillor, a good bloke and a good dad. He lived life well and will be missed by Swale council.”
Mark was born in the fishing village of Nairn, Scotland, but had lived in Sheerness for nearly 40 years. Most recently he had been supporting those campaigning to overturn Swale council’s ban on motorhomes parking on Minster’s Shingle Bank.
He also spoke out against the creation of Sheerness Town Council fearing poorer residents would not be able to afford the extra tax to fund it.
But his biggest love was music. The former mechanical engineer joined Kent band Vanity Fare after moving to London just after their biggest hit Hitchin’ A Ride in 1971 and stayed with them until he retired in 2015 appearing on many 60s tours with PJ Proby, The Tremoloes, The Searchers and Chris Farlowe. He also performed in the duo No Comebacks.
His daughter Holly, 26, said: “From a young age I remember knowing my Dad was not a typical dad. Yes, he would pick me up from school every day but at the weekend he would take me to gigs across the UK.
“I had the best childhood being by his side. Watching him play shows to hundreds of people is something I will cherish forever. Nothing made me more proud than watching him play the drums and being on stage and doing what he loved the most, which was making people happy through the power of music.”
Cllr Ellen was first elected in 2005 and won back his seat in 2011 after briefly losing it in 2010.
His younger brother Rob recalled: "He always had a keen interest in music. I remember asking our mum once why Mark wasn't going to school and she simply replied: 'Buddy Holly has died.'"
Mark toured the world with Kent band Vanity Fare and in Europe they shared equal billing with the Beach Boys performing their biggest hit Hitching A Ride.
He met his third and final ex-wife Tina while gigging with his country duo No Comebacks with Kentish entertainer Johnny Pod at a show on Sheppey. Tina and Mark went on to have daughter Holly.
Tina said: “Mark had been part of my life for over 36 years and although we separated and divorced many years ago he remained an integral part of my life as we raised Holly.”
Mark would hold "surgeries" in his "office" in the bar of the Napier pub 50 steps from his home and after retiring from live touring spent his remaining years restoring and reviving antique drum kits and selling them all over the world to clients such as ex-Beatles drummer Ringo Starr's son Zak Starkey of The Who.