Malcolm Brocklesby

MALCOLM Brocklesby, who has died aged 77, was a mining engineer who took up sculpture and campaigned against open cast mines, especially in Yorkshire and Tyne and Wear.

That campaign turned the tide against the hitherto routine approval of applications to work new seams. Such mines left behind vast holes, welcomed by local authorities as their existing waste-disposal sites reached capacity.

For 30 years, Mr Brocklesby, who lived at Oulton, near Leeds, was an active member of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England.

He was born in Sheffield and brought up in Doncaster, his father George being chief accountant to the Doncaster Amalgamated Collieries Association. He went to Hill House prep school and from there to Oundle.

He won a National Coal Board Scholarship to read mechanical sciences at Cambridge and subsequently an Exhibition to Jesus College, Cambridge, as well. There he joined the Roosters Debating Society and rowed for the College VIII, winning the Fairbairn Cup. He was made an honorary member of the University's Hawks Club for elite sportsmen.

After he graduated, his National Coal Board Scholarship took him to Sheffield University to read mining engineering where he gained a First Class Honours degree, and he played rugby for the university as a forward.

Later, he would play for Doncaster Rugby Football Club, being captain in 1959 and 1961.

From Sheffield he joined the NCB as a graduate trainee, much of his work taking him underground in the context of developing new types of machinery and mining techniques.

In 1960, he was awarded funding by the English Speaking Union to study Industrial Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the Peake Travelling Scholarship by the Institution of Mining Engineers to study mechanised coal mining in the USA.

On his return he once again met Molly Staniland who, like him, had lived in Doncaster and, like him, had just returned from the States. This time romance blossomed, and a year later they were married in Doncaster Parish Church.

He left the NCB in the early 60s and joined Richard Sutcliffe Ltd, making mining machinery.

The couple moved to Oulton, where they remained.

Molly had a small interior design business in Doncaster, and when her husband decided to leave Richard Sutcliffe, she was happy for him to take over the reins. His plans for developing the business were put into place, and in 10 years what became Group Northern Holdings, based in the old Wesleyan Chapel at Oulton, grew into one of the leading companies in its field.

A man who did not wait for others to take a lead, when he saw a need, he acted. Thus it was, with Molly, that he galvanised opposition to the planned demolition of Oulton Hall and its replacement with a prison, and in doing so formed an ad hoc committee which became the Oulton Civic Society.

Interested in the countryside and concerned about its preservation – hence his membership of the CPRE – he became involved in numerous campaigns opposing applications for open cast mines, and as a founder member of the highly-influential Open Cast Mining Intelligence Group he wrote a booklet to help other objectors run a successful campaign.

In bursts of creative activity, Malcolm Brocklesby could also be found in a converted loft above the stables at his home carving sculptures from polysterene blocks which would be coated in glass fibre and then a resin finish, or working on smaller figures in plasticine and wax, to be cast in bronze.

His sculptures are in numerous collections in Yorkshire and beyond, his best-known pieces being his military figures, The Defenders, at

Helmsley Castle, and his Madonna of the Cross on the high altar at Mount Grace Priory.

He is survived by his wife Molly and their daughters Julia and Nicki, and two grandchildren.