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Top Award for Party Stalwart

October 30, 2018 5:00 PM

At the Liberal Democrat Conference in Brighton last month the party's highest honour for long and distinguished service, the President's Award, was presented to well-known local activist and former councillor Martin Kyrle.

Martin read history at Southampton University, and joined the Liberal Party sixty years ago soon after graduating. He began his political career as local election agent in Southampton, and in Portswood ward in the council elections in 1961 secured the party's first second place since the War. Moving to Chandler's Ford, he succeeded in getting his late wife, Margaret, elected as the first-ever Liberal member of Eastleigh Borough Council in 1972.

During the 1970s and '80s he stood for Parliament four times, achieving four second places. In 1980 he won a by-election in West End, which the Tories at the count boasted was their safest seat in the borough, and went on to represented West End on Eastleigh Borough Council until 2003 and served as chairman of the Planning Committee and chairman of the Local Area Committee. He was Mayor's Escort when his wife was Mayor of Eastleigh in 1984 and 1998 and as Mayor himself in 1993 set up the Arts & Youth Trust as a registered charity to provide financial assistance to local young people studying music, dance or theatre or involved in uniformed youth activities. He served some forty years as a school governor, including twelve as chairman if a special school, and for twenty years was a union rep on Eastleigh Trades Council.

In 1970 he published AD LIB, the first-ever general political pamphlet entirely funded by advertising and which morphed into the now familiar Lib Dem newsletter Focus. In 1989 he pioneered the Hampshire Liberal Democrats County Handbook, now in its 34th edition.

Since retiring from teaching Martin has turned to writing. The first three books in his series The Liberals in Hampshire chronicle politics and local government in Southampton in the early 1960s and in Chandler's Ford and Eastleigh in the '70s. He has also published two volumes of entertaining tales from his travels, ranging from national service in the Mediterranean Fleet to hitch-hiking around Europe in his student days. His Jottings from the Trans-Siberian Railway documents a month in 2012 crossing Siberia and Mongolia, and he is currently writing a sequel: a two-part series entitled Jottings from Russia and the Baltic States. The first, Part 1: Russia and Estonia, is already on sale to the public; the second, Part 2: Latvia, Lithuania and Finland, is in preparation.

Martin Kyrle is still involved in frontline politics: in May this year he was elected to Chandler's Ford Parish Council and is chairman of the Planning, Highways & Licensing Committee.