My Crossing of the Bar
When I slip my moorings for the very last time,
Head for the river's sandbar I must cross,
May my boat be 'best can' shipshape
And ready for inspection by the boss.
Let me know the sand bar is ahead
Below the water clean but still unseen,
And when my boat slides gently, silently over,
May I recall the places I have been.
To any shorebound shipmates then assembled,
Take delight in the air you breathe for it is free.
Give safe passage to the ship of my remains,
Let it carry me over the bar and out to sea.
Mark Steele, March 18, 2006.
Introduction Letter by Tim Steele
Dear Chuck and Sandra,
I'm attaching Dad's eulogy which my sister Carrie Ogier created with his help over the last couple of months of his life. He approved the version I'm attaching, ever the wordsmith with an eye for detail even in his last days!
My Dad thought the world of you, and was very fond of Duckworks and Messing About in Boats (MAIB), so he'd be chuffed to know that you're doing this.
Eulogy, Mark D'Arcy Steele
Mark was born in 1934 in what was then British Guiana, in South America, of Portuguese and English ancestry. In his own words, he is Guyanese first, and a New Zealander second. British Guiana became a republic in 1966 and was renamed Guyana, hence the term Guyanese.
The only son of Myra and Hector, Mark grew up in the capital city of Georgetown, in the family home in Light Street with his parents, and his maternal Grandmother Ana Gomes. Mark was educated at St Stanislaus College, a Catholic Boys School in Georgetown. Growing up Mark shared his father Hector's love of race horses and motorcycles. Hector trained race horses for owners and Mark liked nothing better than spending time at D'Urban Park with his father, knowing all the jockeys, owners and developing a love for the horses that became his own personal favourites. He recalled enthusiastically the thrill of pre-dawn rises with his father to get to the track early, and how his father referred to the time as being "before bird's wife wakes".
In the late 1940s motor cycle clubs were beginning to be established in British Guiana, and by 1950, another group emerged, made up of the sons of Georgetown families, most of them members of the elite Demerara Rowing Club, including Mark. Young and adventurous as many as 30 would gather and draw numbers for positions in the convoy, with the more experience riders at the front and some bringing up the rear, for the 100-mile ride up the pot-holed, red- dirt East Coast road to 63 Beach. After the rough and dusty road, No 63 beach provided a welcome opportunity for flat-out riding on the smooth five-mile stretch of sand. Soon drag-races were being run, with locals coming out to watch the action on Sundays. By 1952, things were more organised, but trips to No 63 beach ('little Daytona,' they called it) then only happened on Easter weekends every year. The plan was to leave town on Easter Saturday, overnight at nearby sugar estates, or the King's Hotel at the entrance to No 63 beach, then check the beach on Sunday morning for soft spots and debris, and put down course-markers. By mid-morning large numbers of villagers would have gathered to see the drag-races, with a few taking part too. Particularly interesting was the fact that the local Catholic priest - once Sunday morning mass concluded - was made the official starter!
In 1955 the British Guiana Motor-Cycle Club was formed, as the beach racing was starting to lose its appeal. Many of the participants were getting older and marrying, and it was thought that a more 'respectable' image was needed to replace the young, wild one. The thought was that the club's formation would effect this change, and perhaps that's why Mark's father, Hector Steele (then Chairman of Sandbach Parker) was made President, with Mark being made Vice-President. The newly formed club held its first official race meeting on the sands of No 63 Beach on Easter Sunday in April 1955, where winners received silver trophies for their efforts. You could say it was the birth of real motor racing in Guyana!
In 1959, Mark married Norma, and for the next couple of years they lived in a home adjacent to Mark's parents, and a year later their first child, Tim was born. Not too long after that, Mark and Norma headed off to England, looking for a change in lifestyle and to escape the stresses of the political unrest that was going on at the time, the early 1960s were turbulent times in Guyana, both economically and politically. They had not been away much more than a year when Mark's father suffered a fatal heart attack while holidaying in Barbados. He was 58 years old. This sudden change of circumstances sent Mark and his family back to Guyana, to be at his mother's side, and to sort out his father's affairs. For a while Mark and Norma considered remaining in Guyana, but as the country struggled, often violently, in its political battle towards independence, once again Mark and Norma made the decision that it was time to find a new home.
They chose Barbados, the nearby Caribbean island where they had honeymooned and with which they already had connections, in that Mark's uncle owned a property there and so his family had often holidayed there. Mark's mother Myra joined them, and later Norma's parents did as well. And so, from 1963 until 1975, Barbados was home, and the birthplace of their two daughters, Cara and Linda. Both Mark's parents and Norma's father are buried in Westbury Cemetery in Barbados. In the early 1970's Barbados was experiencing political troubles of its own, which resulted in somewhat of an exodus of its local and immigrant middle class population, sadly, Barbados was losing its back bone, and once again Mark felt it was time to look for another home.
And so it was, that the Steele family of 5 moved to New Zealand in 1975, and settled on Auckland's north shore. Mark also brought the other love of his life with him to New Zealand, his Blaze Orange MGB sportscar, which he drove around Auckland in for many years, before retiring it into the hands of another enthusiast.
During his life, Mark has been a radio announcer, has sold cars, tractors and motorcycles, worked in shipping, insurance and advertising and in newspapers. In the Caribbean he also worked for many years as regional marketing officer for a major international airline, known then as BOAC, later renamed British Airways. While in the Caribbean Mark also conceived, wrote and presented television programmes on travel in three countries, was a Sunday cartoonist, a motor racing commentator for a radio station and a motoring feature columnist for a newspaper. As an artist he painted mainly watercolours, and exhibited in both his homeland of Guyana, and in Barbados. Today, those watercolours hang in homes all over the world.
In Auckland Mark initially worked in sales, before managing St Lukes Shopping Centre for a few years and later being appointed Manager of Fiji's national tourist office in Auckland, where he remained as New Zealand Marketing Director until he retired. Mark developed a real love for the Fiji islands and its people, and thoroughly enjoyed spending time there on his regular business trips.
In New Zealand Mark took up poetry writing, self-publishing a number of books from design through to paste-up to assembly, using his own photographs and art illustrations. He also wrote and produced two small children's books, which he gave away freely during his time managing St Lukes. Mark's objective with his poetry was always to provide pleasure to friends, and he delighted in being able to share his thoughts and ideas by presenting people with copies of his books.
After Mark retired he became involved with the RDA, Riding for the Disabled, in Albany for a number of years as a volunteer. He got a lot of pleasure from spending time with the children who came through the service, working with the horses and the new friends he made in the group. During this time he also used his artistic talents once again, to design the annual RDA Christmas cards on 4 occasions, using some of his own photography featuring RDA horses.
Mark's interest in 1metre yachts began during his time with the Fiji Visitors Bureau, when he became involved in sponsorship of regattas, leading to the purchase of his first boat, aptly named the Fiji Flyer, and led to the foundation of the group called the Ancient Mariners, sailing at Onepoto. This new interest provided another opportunity of creativity for Mark, when he developed his own magazine, named "Windling World" which he produced for many years. For those of you who haven't heard about windling, it is reportedly the model equivalent of 'cruising', and I hope that's at least somewhat accurate, or otherwise I may just be bailed up later on by some of the ancient mariners here today, to set me straight. Mark also wrote regular articles for Marine Modelling Magazine in the United Kingdom, The Model Yacht in the USA and was a columnist at Duckworks online magazine.
Encompassing all of his interests and things he held dear, Mark has for many years corresponded with a large number of friends and acquaintance around the world, including fellow riders from his motorcycle club days, keeping his inbox running hot with new emails. He has also kept in regular contact with relatives in England, Ireland and Guyana. Mark may have been an only child, but his desire to maintain links with his extended family members and keep family ties alive has always been immensely important to him and something he has worked hard at doing.
As well as his wife Norma, and his 3 children, Mark's 7 grandchildren, Harley, Andrew, David, Mark, Samantha, Hannah and Isabella, have been a constant source of interest and pride for him, and he has always been keen to keep them close and stay up to date with what is going on in their lives.
All of us here today are present because Mark meant something to us, and in that knowledge, we can be assured that we meant a lot to him too. Today is a celebration of Mark's life, a much loved son, husband, father, grandfather and friend.
Harking back to Mark's days at St Stanislaus College in Georgetown, the school's motto, translated from its polish origin, is a fitting way to conclude the story of Mark's life: "I LIVE NOT FOR TIME BUT FOR ETERNITY".
by Cara Ogier (nee Steele, Mark's daughter).
Introduction by Tim Steele
Mark Steele, a true friend of Duckworks, wrote the Where the Wind Blows column for Duckworks Magazine for many years. We owe him much gratitude and he will be missed by all the Duckworks family. He was the king of model boat writers. ed.