A LONG-SERVING Isle of Wight busman, well known to many as a helpful and knowledgeable travel clerk, died suddenly at 52.

Gary Leslie Slater was born on March 23, 1968, and lived for a short while in Ryde but spent most of his formative years in Cowes.

He attended Cowes High School, and joined Southern Vectis straight from school in 1984.

Mr Slater first worked at its Cowes High Street office, then Freshwater and occasionally Newport, later taking charge of its Ryde travel office.

His legendary knowledge of the National Express Coaching network and rail system proved beneficial, while his help and advice to visitors always created a first class image.

The closure of most travel offices in 2009 necessitated a move to bus driving, including seasonal duty on the Shanklin Steamer service, and on rest days, conducting on the former Dotto Train.

Isle of Wight County Press: Gary Slater.Gary Slater.

An interest in collecting model buses developed into an enjoyable career, as well as part-ownership of a Volvo Olympian which had been withdrawn from service.

Mr Slater had a lifelong interest in the scouting movement, and was captain of the Kingston Arms petanque team for a time, playing for The Stag at Northwood and The Falcon at Ryde.

He also served as secretary of the Cowes District cribbage team. He also enjoyed fundraising for local charities.

Mr Slater enjoyed travelling and had been booked on a cruise to see the Northern Lights, which was a lifelong ambition of his, but the trip was cancelled due to Covid-19.

On December 4, a large contingent of Southern Vectis staff, past and present, including the Go South Coast managing director, assembled in Newport Bus Station as Mr Slater's hearse passed through.

A minute’s silence was observed before the cortege, including the company’s flagship 81-year old open-double decker CDL 899, and the more modern open-top, partly owned and regularly driven by Mr Slater, left for the funeral service at St Faith’s Church, Cowes ­— the parish in which he grew up.

This, and the service which followed at the Isle of Wight Crematorium, was conducted by Rev Stephen Sutcliffe.

Mr Slater, who died suddenly of a heart attack at his Ryde home, leaves behind his brother and two nephews.