Bunny Lewis, Deviation supremo.
Photo:- FR Archives
|Born||26 June 1942|
|Died||28 April 2006|
|Occupation||Deviation Site Manager|
|FR People | WHR People|
Early life and family
David Lewis (otherwise known as Bunny) was born in Cambridge on 26 June 1942, the son of Ken and Barbara Lewis. In 1946 they provided him with a sister, Deborah.
He spent the first twelve years of his life in the village of Papworth Everard before his family moved to Cambridge. He went to St. John's Choir School in Cambridge where he was a chorister. It was here he passed the 11 plus examination and went on to attend the Cambridge High School for boys. At the age of 16 he joined the Junior Marines progressing to the Royal Marines. His career was based in the landing craft section, being latterly associated with HMS Fearless and in 1969, after twelve years, he had achieved the rank of acting sergeant.
Early involvement with the FR
Bunny Lewis first learned of the Festiniog Railway from a television programme in 1960. When he was back in the UK on leave from the Royal Marines in 1964 he happened to buy a copy of the Railway Magazine (along with a lot of other magazines, for he had had no specific interest in railways since boyhood loco-spotting days). It contained an advertisement for the Society, and he joined. During a fortnight's leave in 1966 he came and worked on the track for a week. He subsequently visited the FR for week-ends, but found that organized group working parties were a bit on the expensive side. On the other hand the messes at Dduallt were not only cheaper but had the sort of set-up that appealed to his service background. Having joined the Deviationists, he was asked to supervise other volunteers and came for longer periods in 1968 and 1969 - hence the groups called "Bunny's Band" - and he joined the Deviationists Junta where his Cambridge origin made him acceptable even though it was town rather than gown!
He stood out from all the other volunteers in that he had been trained in the marines to organize men and undertake heavy moving jobs with manpower and elementary aids such as crow bars, ropes and pulleys. In January 1967 he worked with John Grimshaw and a party of boys from Westminster school constructing the piers for Rhoslyn Bridge at Dduallt.
Paid employee of the FR Co
In 1969 he took up an invitation to become the Civil Engineering Department's first full-time employee. To join the staff, in 1970, Bunny Lewis bought himself out of the Royal Marines, after 12 years service during which he rose to the rank of Corporal. Much of his service was abroad, in the Persian Gulf or the Far East, with Commandos - by profession he was a seaman, and having spent much of his time in landing craft, he considered he did more practical seamanship than many Royal Navy seamen on bigger vessels.
His job on the FR was to prepare the formation for the Deviation as Site Agent and Foreman, Civil Engineering Department (New Works). Given drawings of what was intended, he had to get in materials, administer labour on site (one full-time, occasional temporary but mostly volunteer), run plant and do the maintenance on it, and organize drilling and blasting.
He met Jane Ayres a volunteer on the Deviation and they married in 1972. They had two boys. With the Deviation virtually Complete, Bunny and Jane moved to Colchester to become Landlords of the Goat & Boat. Later with Peter Hugman, another ex-Deviationist, they moved to Yorkshire to set up South Yorkshire Canal Transport Ltd transporting sand and gravel. Bunny then worked once again for the Ffestiniog Railway but in 1994, he and Jane divorced and he returned to Colchester with his partner Kris. He took a job as a mobile security guard and rose through the ranks to become a supervisor. He died rather unexpectedly working for ISS a cleaning services company.
Bunny was exceptionally effective at organizing the building of the Deviation and supervising volunteers. He was kind and thoughtful and is truly missed by the many who knew him.
Jim Hewett recalls:
It must be said that Bunny had a very brusque manner which no doubt worked well when ordering Marines to do a task but did not always work as well with volunteers. Once you got to know him he was very likeable but I imagine many volunteers never gave him a second chance.
My first encounter with him must have been 1970. It was my second visit to the FR and I had just joined the Society. I took the train to Dduallt and walked on to inspect the Deviation. Bunny was in charge of some volunteers loading a skip with rocks. He tried to tell me the price for taking photos was to spend a half hour helping. I made some excuse and left rapidly not wanting to cross his path again. It was 1975 before I really got to know him and changed my opinion of him. I was working with a group from London on disposing of spoil from the tunnel. If you did something wrong his response was "What are you doing!".
I met him again about 20 years later when he had mellowed a lot. We were doing some work at Tan y Bwlch and one of the ladies helping in the cafe said "What a rude man" to which I replied "You should have met him 20 years ago".