Mark Weir Tributes!
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Just after 7pm (Tuesday March 8th) Mark left the slate mine in his helicopter following a day’s work at his mining and tourism business at the top of Honister Pass near Keswick, Borrowdale, Cumbria.
When he failed to return to his home near Cockermouth, his partner and the mother of his three children alerted the emergency services.
A search of the area by the authorities located his stricken helicopter from which his body was recovered.
At this time, the precise circumstances and causes of the accident are unknown. A full investigation is under way.
Mark was 45. Mark's family and staff at Honister Slate Mine are “totally devastated,” and bereft by their loss.
The family and staff fully respect the right of the media to ascertain more information but respectful request that they do not directly approach or contact the family as they attempt to cope with this profound and tragic loss.
A spokesman for Honister said: “Mark was a charismatic Lake District legend with a lust for life and a giant personality. He was passionate about everything he did from fatherhood to flying and business. He loved questioning authority but won many doubters over through sheer force of his personality. He was that rare mix of shrewd businessman and creative entrepreneur – just as comfortable in the company of Royalty and celebrity, as he was driving diggers with slate miners or making tea with the tourists who flocked to the mine. Mark loved Honister and Mark was Honister. He loved flying, he loved life in the Lake District. He was a fully-trained pilot with decades of experience and would never take a risk. He is irreplaceable both as a man, a son, a father, a partner, a businessman, a boss and a human being.”
Eric Robson, Chairman of Cumbria Tourism, paid tribute on behalf of the Lake District tourism industry. He said: “Mark brought such a spirited dynamism to the debate about creating a thriving tourism economy to the Lakes. He genuinely loved Honister and the community of Borrowdale, he was rooted there and wanted to do the best for them.
“You also have to give him credit for how he pushed projects through when everybody was saying you can’t do that or you’ll never get away with it. He did, and he brought a tremendous amount of joy to people who enjoyed them. He will be enormously missed.”
The partner of Mark Weir has today paid her own personal tribute to her “compassionate, loving, hardworking” soulmate as details of his funeral service were also announced.
Jan Wilkinson, speaking publically about him for the first time since last week’s accident, said while some may have viewed him as a “hard-nosed businessman,” privately he was anything but.
She said: “Mark was generous, compassionate, loving, funny, adorable and energetic. He always had a glass half-full mentality. He had an effect on people, a positive effect. Even though he wouldn’t sometimes get home from work until 2.30am, he always wanted to get up and say goodbye to the kids before they went to school, or have a cuddle in bed with them.”
“He loved all life and all living things – teaching his children that even spiders had a place in life and deserved to live. He hated spiders but he would sit on the floor and take his shirt off and put one on his stomach under a glass to show his children they wouldn’t bite or do any harm, and allay their fears.”
Referencing some of his more controversial business plans and attempts to help people which saw critics round on him, she said: “I saw him change over the years from being a bull-headed, bring-it-on sort of guy to someone who genuinely wanted to work with people and try to see what good could be brought out of a situation. He could be selfish in that he worked so hard but he had a vision that not everyone could see. He was trying to do it for a bigger cause – he was trying to build something different for the county. It all sounds too good to be true, but he was like that”
The pair met when Mark was 19 and were together for 27 years. Mark was 45 and they had three children together.
Jan added: “What a lot of people didn’t see was that he helped so many people from kids that were poorly to people that had problems with drugs, and friends and relatives that needed jobs doing. He always wanted to do right by everybody and give them his time or help them if they were struggling. Even at work he wanted to make time for people and help them, but it always meant he had more to do at the end of his day.
“Yet if you came to our house there is so much that is broken from taps to even damaged roofing slates but it didn’t matter to me and him. He wasn’t a flashy guy. We didn’t need to live in a mansion. The essence of his life was just having his health, the stability of his family, a nice home and a free conscience.”
“He used to get frustrated that he would have an idea that would benefit the county but it would get stalled or blocked. He worked so hard and would wonder “why am I doing all this and missing my own family?” She also said he could be “hard to live with, strong-willed and argumentative,” sometimes absent-mindedly driving over her roses as he rushed about in a digger doing jobs.
On the night of the accident – Tuesday March 8th - Jan shared they shared an impromptu phone call as he rang to say he would be home.
“He phoned me that night and said: “I’m just ringing to say I love you” I said I love you too darling and I'll see you soon. That was him. The unexpectedness of the phone call was typical Mark.”
Mark then drove from a job he was working on at a property in Keswick to Honister Slate Mine where he boarded his helicopter.
When he never returned home that night, she rang 999.
Jan said: “The hardest thing I had to do was ring the Mountain Rescue Team yet every member of the team turned out to look for him and I’ll always be grateful to them for that. At the site, they were absolutely distraught.”
She explained that Mark’s love of flying dated back to childhood when, at the age of around four, he watched in fascination as a Gazelle helicopter landed in a field at his parents’ farm at High Lodore. The images stayed with him until he could fly his own helicopter. Mark would eventually “park” his in the same field and an enjoy an ice cream in the summer.
Jan said: “He didn’t want to fly just any helicopter it was always a Gazelle. He wasn’t thriving for a million pound helicopter it was just a Gazelle. Seeing that Gazelle helicopter as a little boy sparked his imagination in flying.”
Only the other week, Markl had remarked that he was looking forward to Spring arriving in the Lake District - telling her: “It’s that time of year – it’s wonderful. The good weather’s coming back.”
Said Jan: “He hated winter. He loved flying when the light and the sun was in the sky again. He would fly very high up just to feel the sun on his face.”
Mark’s mother Celia Taylor-Weir, said: “Mark couldn’t understand why his ideas had to be talked about for months and sometimes years.”
“He used to laugh and get frustrated by officialdom. Sometimes even getting a meeting with all the people required to get something done would take six weeks because of
holidays and people’s diaries. He had a great foresight for the future of Cumbria and couldn’t understand why some people couldn’t see his ideas or how Cumbria would benefit from them."
“I saw in his eyes how hurt he could be at the negative attitudes that can exist. One of his visions was to give his workers good, decent what he called "Southern wages,” to enable them to buy property in their own locality.”
Jan added: “We never realised how many people admired, loved and were touched by Mark. The hundreds of cards, phonecalls, flowers and emails has amazed us. I would like to think Mark would have been embarrassed by it but I can’t because he would have loved it.”