Old Fisherman of Rye

Mr. Jacob “Shad” Gibbs 1865-1956

By Julie Brett (Ditcher) Great Granddaughter
Jacob was born in 1865 in Rye, his father and four brothers were all from Rye and were all fishermen as he was to become at the age of 11. From 1888-1890 he served as mate under skipper W. Bourne on the trawler S.S.Pionerre and from
1893-1897 he was the third hand under Master J.M. Breeds on the S.S.Crusader.
He married around the age of 22 to Mary Jane Small, who was a Rye Harbour lass and was married for over 50 years until her death in 1937. Jacob and Mary Jane had 2 sons and 4 daughters, lived in Rye for a few years and then Rye Harbour.
Jacob sailed in numerous vessels and became a familiar figure to fishing communities from Newhaven to Folkestone. During the First World War when he lived for a time in Newhaven he served first in the Territorial Force and then asked to be transferred to minesweepers and served as a Petty Officer.
At the end of the war he and his wife settled back in Rye Harbour still continuing to fish until the death of his wife when he moved to Rye and lived with one of his daughters Mary Jane Ditcher (my Grandmother).

In Jacobs younger days he was suppose to have been the ringleader of a group of young men, where they secreted a boat of some unfortunate fisherman and set light to it and drag it through the streets of Rye where it is believed to have got stuck in the Landgate. He was caught red handed and imprisoned in Ypres Castle for 3 days.
Jacob carried on fishing throughout the Second World War and fished until he was 80 years old. At this time he was skipper of the Dorothy Margaret and because of failing eyesight had to stop fishing.

The Dorothy Margaret

A family story I was told was that during the Dunkirk evacuation he took part in taking the Dorothy Margaret to rescue the soldiers on the beaches but I have no evidence to support this. His activities in his retirement was to grow a few vegetables and get me at the tender age of 7 to go round his cabbages, take off all the caterpillars for which he would give me a threepenny piece.
His other enjoyment was to go to his local The Ship Inn for his daily pint or two depending if there were any visitors or not. If there were visitors it was nothing for him to entertain them by tap dancing on a table, of course some of his fellow fishermen would egg him on and so visitors would buy them pints. He also used to walk to the gasworks, smoking his pipe, where all the old “Salts” (fisherman) used to gather and talk about old times and for any one passing by would ask them what the weather was going to be, nine times out of ten they would be right.

Jacob Gibbs outside the Ship Inn

He was up until his death, the oldest member of the Rye branch of the British Legion, he had joined on its formation. Jacob was also very popular as a model with the art students at the Rye Further Education Centre and a portrait of him
painted by the then Mayor Councillor Bagley who exhibited it in London, I would give anything to know exactly where it is now and to able to purchase it.
On a couple of occasions he was interviewed by the Canadian Broadcasting Company who were making programmes on Rye and the people of the town, these all took place in Cyprus Place.

From Rye’s Own Magazine

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