Local Personalities

What’s the difference in being a local personality to being a local character?

Cheeky Girls

This article stems from a recent discussion in the FB Rye’s Own News Group when some thought the Cheeky Girls were not famous enough to be titled ‘Rye Personalities’.  Most thought they were a great asset to the town, opening events and supporting anything happening in Rye when they were not working. They have done lots of appearances locally and never charge for time or expences.

Some said they were not great singers but they had a No. 2 in the Popular Music Charts at Christmas time in direct competition with Simon Cowell’s X Factor entry. In my mind they are definitely Rye Personalities and would get my vote any time.

Jimper with the Cheeky Girls at Icklesham Bonfire
Jimper with the Cheeky Girls at Icklesham Bonfire


What about Jimper? He has written millions of words about Rye and the Marshes and has become so popular they have named a bus after him! Even Jimper would not have dreamed that one up.

Jimper’s Early Years are featured in the 2015 February, March and April issues and begins with a Jimper ‘classic’ first paragraph…..

“The World was in darkness the night I was born, not a light was to be seen, and then, as I grew and could walk and run, the lights came on all over the Kingdom.”

Jimper Sutton
Jimper Sutton

Some of the exploits he got up to in those wonderful ‘free’ years after the War sound far fetched in today’s ‘Nanny State’ but I can assure readers that they are accurate, I was around myself at the time and enjoyed the same degree of freedom. It was not until the middle of the Sixties that the three ‘R’s’ started raising their ugly heads, Rules, Regulations and Restrictions have mounted steadily up to the present time and now we have the all encompassing ‘Health & Safety’ regulations cleverly wrapped in words no one dare argue against.

Read Jimper’s story and get a taste of real freedom and adventure.

Lets have some more Rye Characters and Personalities.

Arthur Woodgate

I give you Arthur Woodgate. One time bricklayer, Rye Magistrate, Trade Union Official and now, at the tender age of 101, Rye’s Own’s Senior Journalist.

Arthur Woodgate, a man whose wealth of knowledge about Rye and Rye people has been recorded in the pages of "Ryes Own" for the past 15 years.
Arthur Woodgate, a man whose wealth of knowledge about Rye and Rye people has been recorded in the pages of “Ryes Own” for the past 15 years.

Arthur remembers hearing the Zeppelin, that bombed Rye Harbour in the First World War, pass over the town while he and his classmates sat at their school desks. He worked as a brickie on the first Regent Cinema in Cinque Ports Street. His memory at 101 is still amazing and we hope he will go on for many more years sharing Rye’s forgotten secrets with us.

Rex Swain

Rex Swain the Rye Town Crier at work outside the Town Hall
Rex Swain the Rye Town Crier at work outside the Town Hall

What about Rex Swain our colourful Town Crier? Another truly remarkable Personality. He carries out his job with much dignity and a twinkle in his eye. He is a true performer and a fine advert for Rye. He worked all his working life for Spun Concrete and was one of the team responsible for building the new Lighthouse at Dungeness.

John Izod

Councillor John Izod  - Artist and Philosopher
Councillor John Izod – Artist and Philosopher

Then there is Councillor  John Izod, an artist and true supporter of all things Rye. John is a Ryer by choice, but it has been good for Rye that he came here. He seems to be present at every local event and on many committees, including that of the Rye Rugby Club. He is also a keen member of the Bonfire Boys and was Chairman for several years.

The Mayor of Rye Councillor Bernardine Fiddimore

The Mayor of Rye - Bernardine Fiddimore
The Mayor of Rye – Bernardine Fiddimore

There are so many others I could write about, our Mayor, Bernardine Fiddimore was Rye Carnival Queen when she was Nineteen. Since becoming Mayor of Rye she has livened up Rye Town Council and is pushing Rother and ESCC for action on many things including the cleaning and restoration of the Langate Tower to repairing the dangerous Pot Holes in Rope Walk.

‘Fireman’ Bourn


Michael Borne Leads the Rye Armistice Parade
Michael Bourn Leads the Rye Armistice Parade

What about Michael Bourn – Followed in his father and grandfather’s footsteps to become Rye Fire Chief. A great all round sportsman, played football and cricket for Rye and served as a leading member of Rye British Legion. He led the Armistice Day Parade past the Town Hall for many years.

And now for another very special local Character.

Rod Chapman

Rod Chapman Motor Racer and entrepreneur
Rod Chapman Motor Racer and entrepreneur

Racing driver Rod Chapman thrilled Saturday Afternoon television audiences around the country with his remarkable driving skills at Lydden Circuit in the 1960’s. There was no professional football on television in those days but ABC created a great audience by covering Rallycross, attracting a huge audience and Rod became one of the spots first stars. He later went on to drive in Lorry Racing and became the European Champion.

What makes him such a ‘local personality’? – Well, I would say he has transformed a large area of Rye Harbour Road, creating a fantastic work environment that has encouraged many people to start or move businesses to the Atlas site.

On top of that he turned the old Alsford’s Wharf into a modern busy port and storage area, handling thousands of tons of goods every month. How many jobs has he created in the Rye Harbour area? 400 might be a modest estimate.

Many More

There are so many more, Rye is rich in characters and personalities. I must make mention of two sets of brothers who also employ 100 or more in their companies.

The Jempson Family business, now run by brothers, Stephen and Andrew, have developed their grocery business in Peasmarsh from a small village shop to a small collection of local shops and Coffee Shops. They have taken on the multi nationals and beat them at their own game while providing an excellent choice of products and service for local consumers. They provide regular employment and also support local farmers and businesses by displaying their produce prominently and supporting them with their Local Hero status.

Then there are the Bourne boys, Eric and Roy, who moved their long established business forward at a time Removal Companies all over the land were finding it hard to keep afloat. The International Movers are known far and wide and son Wesley, who has taken over as Principal of the firm, is carrying on the business in the same successful way.

Who do readers think should be included on this list? And what about a list of some of the Rye Personalities of the past? You write them up and send to [email protected] and we will find photographs and extra details and include them in the magazine or on this Web Site.


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