One of the great pleasures of being involved in community rail is that you get to meet the most extraordinary people. Stephen “Catlin” was one of those people. Stephen was always interested in trains and we were so lucky to have him as vice-chair of the Sussex Downs Line covering Seaford to Brighton. He loved his adopted town, and played such a huge role in civic life as shopkeeper and local businessman, Mayor, guerrilla gardener and polymath. His memorial was held at Lewes Town Hall on Wed 2nd August 2023. John Agard performed a poem specially written for Stephen. Grace Nichols dedicated a poem to him celebrating his love for the environment. Two Queen’s Medal  award winning poets no less. There were films about his rich full life and the Lewes Music Group performed his favourite pieces, Chopin and Danny Boy.

Stephen did not like being to be hemmed in, his mission in life was to unite people through his strong conviction that small towns could be made to work for everyone. He wanted everyone to access the arts, commerce and the environment, regardless of income or background. He enjoyed travel but he wanted local people to be able to afford to use public transport, hence his support for community rail. He would have a lot to say about the proposed changes to the ticket office at Lewes and beyond.

He started work as a theatre critic aged fourteen, did a bit of acting for the BBC and made a number of appearances on our screens throughout his life. He also combined this with journalism. Realising he could not get an Equity Card for acting at that time, he managed to get one as a stage manager and so began a long career in managing theatres in the West End and then moving on to independent cinema. How he came to live in Lewes and open up a shop as a tobacconist, the Lewes Hight St institution that was “Catlins”, is a bit of a mystery to me. Jules Ellis  worked for him in the shop described her time with Stephen: “I was incredibly lucky to have the very funny and at times surreal experience.”  That was Stephen, always charming, always unexpected.  After all the planned tributes people rose from the floor and added their own special memories, the time he was nearly flattened by a wall in one of his many gardens due to an unwelcome visit from a tractor; his mischief making, his generosity, his modesty.

There is never enough time. There is never enough time to enjoy the life stories of the people we meet, to learn from them, to laugh with them. Stephen asked for “Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye” as his last piece of music and final words to us all.  Since it is always wise to do what Stephen bid, we wave a fond  farewell and wish you luck .