Rye Regatta

Water Spectacular at the Fishmarket

Amongst the mass of pictures that have been brought into our office after our appeals in Rye’s Own, were two remarkable pictures of the Rye Regatta, one of which is reproduced here. Regattas were held at the Fishmarket up to 1913, and as can be seen by the photograph, they were very popular events.

The probable date of the Regatta in the picture would be around 1902 and no doubt there are many people still living today who can remember this particular Regatta and perhaps could put names to some of the faces in the picture and, for the purpose of anyone so interested, enlargements of sections of this print are displayed on the Rye’s Own notice board at 6 Cinque Ports Street, Rye.

Rye Regatta
Rye Regatta

At the time when this photograph was taken, we believe by Mr. E. E. Stocks, the process of setting up a camera was a long and complicated one, the great advantage to this, from our point of view at any rate, was that news of the photographer got around and gave time for everyone to get ‘in the picture.’

The main focal point of this particular picture can easily be missed with a cursory glance—a second look reveals a man, Johnny Milgate, balancing on the yard arm of the fishing boat in the foreground.

Johnny Milgate was a fine swimmer and many local tales are associated with his name. The most interesting story dates from the time he was called up for service in the Navy. It was the custom of the Senior Service at that time to teach all non swimmers to learn the art by the tried and tested method of throwing them into the sea, so forcing them to attempt to make their way back to the side of the ship. This was known as the ‘kill or cure’ swimming lesson.  Johnny claimed he could not swim and was thrown in with the rest. Filling his lungs to capacity, he dived deep and swam under water a great distance from the ship. Considerable consternation was expressed on board when he failed to bob up with the others and it was with great relief that the Officer in charge of the swimming lesson pulled him aboard when Johnny decided that his little game had gone far enough.

Johnny was a great attraction at the Regattas and it was with skill and dexterity that he walked the slippery pole, one of the features in the water carnival that was enjoyed by all. All types of boat racing took place, even barrel races, but the main attraction was the decorated boats of all shapes and sizes that brought a great splash of colour to the Fishmarket and provided an exciting and unique spectacle the like of which we may never see again.

Rye Regatta

Thanks to Eric Sreeton we have added this Poster

From the January 1966 issue of “Rye’s Own”

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