Who are the people that have controlled Rye’s destiny through the last decade and who will decide what will happen here during the next ten years?
As we moved into 2000 Rye Town Council was made up of the following 16 members : Granville Bantick, Robert Beckwith, John Breeds, Roger Breeds, Geraldine Bromley, Paul Carey, Rita Cox, Alan Dickenson, Peter Dyce, Gerry Fortsch, Jo Kirkham, Colin Marsh, Frank Palmer, Ian Potter, Pat Salisbury and Sam Souster. Of those 16 just 6, Granville Bantick, John Breeds, Jo Kirkham, Frank Palmer, Ian Potter and Sam Souster are still in office.
These sixteen, along with Peter Dyce and Paul Carey, played a big part in guiding the town through a very difficult period when Rother District Council were being less than helpful to Rye and County Council was selecting public ground for redundancy or property development. Rye Councillors had to stand-by whilst the Ferry Road School Buildings, which were in excellent condition, were made redundant, left unguarded from vandalism and arsonists, bulldozed to the ground and the site left as the eyesore we live with today.
While Rother brought our Tourist Office to it’s knees by reneging on a promise of a £50,000 a year grant, threatened to close our public conveniences, actually closing the Rope Walk Toilet, and were weak kneed in allowing a plan for 135 houses to be built on a designated green field area next to Udimore Road, a new outfit, the Rye Partnership came on the scene.
Despite there being two Councillors represented on the Partnership, this non-elected body seemed alien to many elected councillors. The Partnership was furnished with large sums of money from SEEDA, another non-elected body whose job was distributing cash from Central Government. The early years of the Partnership, when these large sums were distributed, has been the subject of an inquiry by the National Audit Bureau.
Since that time, under the able Chairmanship of Keith Glazier, proper accounts have been kept and the group has moved on. Unfortunately there has been little cash to distribute of late but Rye Partnership has found a new niche, as a catalyst for ideas that will bring improvements to Rye and its surrounding area.
A new group, The ‘Campaign for a Democratic Rye’ lead by Keith Taylor, was formed and took the public’s imagination and every single candidate put up by the group in three By-elections and in the April Election of 2007 were successful and now make up a substantial minority section on the Council. Their immediate aim is to get the District County split into three sections, allowing all local planning and physical decisions to be taken by the ten local District Councillors in Rye Town Hall.
Through the last half of the decade, Michael Foster has been MP for Rye & Hastings. He has been prominent in his support of Rye, attending and supporting every important demonstration in the town. His visits have been so frequent he has become friends with many in the town and usually remembers brief acquaintances by name. He must be one of the best constituency MP’s in the country.
There have been many other local characters and heroes besides those in the political sphere. Priscilla Ryan, wife of the Late John Ryan creator of Captain Pugwash. Priscilla looked after her ailing husband throughout the decade, motivating him to keep producing cartoons and watercolours, many of which were given to local clubs, societies and charities to raise money. Substantial amounts were realised in Auctions of Promises held at The George, The Mermaid and Thomas Peacocke.
The Cheeky girls were already resident in Rye before they became famous with their pop song “Touch My Bum”. Monica and Gabriella Irimia sprang to fame when they were rejected by the judges of X-Factor but were signed up to make a single record. “Touch My Bum” made it to second spot in the Christmas Charts and their amazing personalities ensured they would be long time favourites of the British public. The girls have always been great supporters of Rye and are on first name terms with many people of all ages in the town. They have been great supporters of Rye and the local area, always ready to attend local events when engagements allow. Their presence at Icklesham Bonfire in 2008 swelled the numbers by hundreds, despite it being a wet and stormy night.
Two ‘organisers’ of the past ten years worthy of special note are Lorna Hall and Peter Cosstick. Lorna resurrected ‘Rye in Bloom’ and advanced it as far as being invited in the national In Bloom Competition. Next on her list was the Flower & Vegetable Show and then she took on the Scallop Festival and has been more than successful in all her endeavours. Peter revitalised the Christmas Shopping events, introducing the ‘Magical Evening’ and co-ordinated existing December event an persuaded and cajoled businesses and groups to put on other exciting happenings. This year Neil Cunliffe took over from Peter and despite atrocious conditions, made a success out of the Festival, especially for shops and local businesses in these difficult days of recession. Peter moved on to manage the Heritage Centre for the Town Council and by all accounts has made an outstanding success of this job, even though he will tell you its all down to his staff.
The Rye workforce is well represented by three employers. Rod Chapman will not consider himself as an employer, but he has let units at his Atlas Business Park and Rastrum Warehouses that allow many to run their own businesses. He has developed the Atlas site into a very pleasant area augmented by site vehicles that are available for the use of those that work there.
Stephen Jempson and brother Andrew, have taken over Budgens at Rye and are gradually building it up to be as welcoming as their Peasmarsh Superstore. A large extension is planned and with it an increase in staff. Between their two local stores they are employing a fair percentage of the Rye workforce.
This also goes for Bourne’s International Movers, headed up by Eric Bourne. Their staff totals around the hundred mark. Eric has been very busy through the decade in other fields beside work. He is very active in the Rotary movement and has been President of the Rye & Winchelsea Rotary Club very recently.
Four more names that were prominent over the past ten years. PCSO Dan Bevan become a legend in Rye by re-introducing respect to the name of Rye Police. Dan made himself know to all and was especially liked by the young and the old. He set up Shop Watch and worked towards getting cameras installed that would be monitored at Rye Police Station. He comforted the injured, helped sick people home, was responsible for the arrests of car thieves, helped bust a drug ring, and inspired other Rye PCSO’s to follow in his footsteps. Dan is now responsible for keeping the peace at Rye Harbour and Rye Foreign.
Canon Hugh Moseley worked hard at St Mary’s and was also Chaplin of Rye Town Council. He made a big mark on the decade and has recently retired. He will be missed.
Anne Cockerham came to the Thomas Peacocke when the school was in special measures after being rated bottom school in the area. Anne Cockerham has turned the newly named Rye College round to become top of the area and one of the most sought after for parents to enter their children.
Richard Farhall has kept the ship steady and is without doubt one of the best Town Clerks in the County.
Back to town
politics and two other ‘stars’ at council meetings who should get special mention are Paul Osborne and Mary Smith. Both are seriously pro-Rye but have opposing views on Area Committees. Who will persuade who. It will be interesting to see.
Now the man who has taken us into the future. Ollie Campion is at the controls of Rye’s best web site and has taken many of us into completely new areas of discovery. He is without doubt, Rye’s Computer King.
Finally. Rex Swain, What can be said that has not already be mentioned? There can be few towns in the Country with a more loyal Town Crier. He has rung his bell at every event imaginable, from important civic occasions to weddings and sponsored happenings. His love of Rye is only equalled by his knowledge of the Ancient Town and his fund of anecdotes is seemingly endless.
“Long live England, the Town of Rye and Our Town Crier”
From the January 2010 issue of “Rye’s Own”
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