Town Crier – May 2005

By Jim Hollands

Lost Opportunity

I was saddened but not altogether surprised when Rye Councillors turned down the invitation from the newly formed ‘Democracy for Rye’ group to provide two members to help with initiating a plan that would eventually lead to Rye getting back the powers and properties that it lost to Rother District Council in 1973.

There are good men and women on Rye Council, many of whom are personal friends. I do not doubt their sincerity and admire the hard work and many hours they put in as councillors, all completely voluntary, but when I sit in at the Town Hall meetings and listen to their articulate debate I am frustrated that their words carry little weight and absolutely no power. Rye is ruled by the iron fist of Rother District Council led by a majority group of Bexhill area representatives.

When I think back to the days before 1973 when Rye Borough Councillors made the decisions that mattered to Rye I wondered what Councillors and Aldermen of the calibre of Beevers, Horner, Bourne, Hacking, Cooper, Dee, Ellis, Scotcher, would have done if they had found themselves in the position of being elected representatives of the Ancient Town of Rye with NO POWER?

Its all very well talking about Quality Council Status but that appears to be all it is – talk!

The aims of the ‘Democracy for Rye’ group is just what it says. They want to restore power to Rye’s elected council.

It may be achieved by endlessly publicising the injustices that are being dished out to Rye. ‘Ladies Locked in Lavatories’, ‘Car Parks Left Locked on Bank Holidays’, ‘Toilets Locked at Peak Times’, ‘Litter Not Cleared From Prime Visitor Areas’, ‘Poorest Support in the Country for this Town’s Bloom Organisation’.

It may be necessary to enlist the aid of and possibly combine, local villages into a group in order to be free of Rother.

Lots of things are at stake. Rye will require the return of all the properties and ground lost to Rother in 1973 plus the £4,000,000 held in Rother coffers for the sale of council house property in Rye.

It may well be that a Private Member’s Bill is needed to change the law to achieve this aim, then so be it. Do not lose sight of the fact that Rye is a unique case, for over 200 years it was one of the most important towns in England, it is one of only two Ancient Towns and a member of the Cinque Ports. It was deemed by English Heritage as far back as 1968 to be one of the five towns in England most worthy of preservation. What has Rother District Council done to preserve our heritage since 1973? This very year their actions almost put Rye Heritage Centre out of business. It took a group of Rye business people, led by Hot Cats Chairman Kerry De Courcy to put together a management scheme and circumvent the £20,000 shortfall created by Rother’s eleventh hour breach of promise.

The ‘Democracy for Rye’ group will continue to explore the possibilities and formulate a plan.

It would have been appropriate for the Council to have been part of this initial process, especially seeing that the project, supported by many concerned people in the community, is for their benefit.

Election 2005

The General Election is upon us and candidates from all parties are beseeching the electorate to get out and vote.

Never has there been such apathy among the public. Politicians wonder why – I can tell them. Take away interest in local voting by taking the powers from the town councils and you take away the habit of voting. When the national election comes along the inclination to vote has gone. Politicians in Parliament sowed the seeds of discontent in 1973, now they are reaping a poor harvest.

Despite all of this we do still live in a country that believes in freedom. We are better off than most other countries in the World.

Even if we do think there is nothing to choose between the parties and can’t see one good leader among them it is still the right thing to vote – after all there are many places in the world where good men and women are prepared to die for the right to vote.

Sixty Years On

May 8 is the sixtieth anniversary of V. E. Day (Victory in Europe).

The parade and service to commemorate this and V. J. Day (Victory over Japan) will take place from 2.30pm on the same date. I notice that the Band of the Ashford Sea Cadets will be an important part of the parade.

This got me thinking back to the days of Rye Town Band that was present for all the important parades in the past.

Where have all the Rye musicians gone? Come to think of it there was a band at Peasmarsh, what happened to them?

Rye does have a marching drum band, could this form a basis for a new town band?

In those days just after World War Two when the troops were coming home with money in their pockets but nothing to buy in the shops. Community spirit was high and after five years of war everyone wanted to enjoy themselves. Television was just a thing on the horizon and public events were the order of the day. Rye United was well supported, two coaches going to away matches.

Rye Sports Day attracted as many as 6,000 people to the Cricket Salts on August Bank Holiday Mondays and Rye Bonfire sported as many as fifty floats and six bands in their half mile long procession.

There were dances at the Drill Hall and Monastery every week and film shows and variety performances also at the Monastery.

The Regent Cinema had been bombed in the war but reconstruction began in 1948. It opened with a showing of “My Brother Jonathon” to a full house of 600.

Sports Days, Carnivals, Bonfire Celebrations, the cinema and many other events, clubs and societies thrived though the fifties and into the sixties. Then television became available to most families and a decline in local events, due to less and less support for the committees that ran them, set in and many ceased to be active.

The end of the sixties saw the end of activities for many clubs, societies and events.

Rye Sports Day was held for the last time in 1969. Rye Wheelers became inactive in that same year. Carnivals stopped earlier but were revived for a short spell in the eighties. Rye Bonfire Society became inactive in the seventies, but like Rye Wheelers, rose from the ashes and is fully active in the 21st. century.

Perhaps Rye Town Band might come to life again, who knows? The V.E. / V.J.Parade and Service will be on a much smaller scale than the grand affair back in 1945 but those that attend will be no less sincere. They will remember those lost in that horrible conflict as well as those of that revered company who have died in the intervening years. Youngsters that did not live during those dangerous times may not appreciate the fullness of life experienced by those that survived. As one old timer explained to me “It is as if every day alive is a bonus. I enjoy every one of them to the full”

As the population has become more and more saturated by television coverage from all corners of the globe plus more time spent in front of computer screens, I sense a gradual return to community life by many who are fed up with too much screen watching. Perhaps, soon, there will be enough musicians available to reform Rye Town Band.

Rye Town Meeting

Every year Rye Council holds a Town Meeting where elected representatives County Councillors, District Councillors, The Mayor of Rye and Chairmen of relevant committees present their reports of the year’s activities.

This year’s meeting, held earlier in the month was poorly attended by the general public who are invited to ask questions. I do not think the meeting was advertised as well as it should have been. This was confirmed when I questioned local people the day after. Not one out of the twenty I asked knew the meeting was on and indeed had never heard of an Annual Town Meeting! Despite so few members of the public attending it was a very good meeting.

George Shackleton’s in depth questioning about the recent management takeover of the Heritage Centre, handed in prior to the meeting, were skilfully and satisfactorily answered on paper by Rye Town Clerk Farhall.

George’s later attack on Rother District Council’s excess spending in Bexhill was endorsed by the two Rye District Councillors Sam Souster and Granville Bantick. As only two out of thirty-eight Rother District Councillors they are virtually powerless in the Bexhill dominated outfit.

“Corporate Vandalism”

In his report District Councillor Bantick accused Rother of “corporate vandalism” for the mess it made of Rye Cemetery. He told of their failure to meet Government’s targets for re-cycling, the decision to renege on Rye’s T.I.C. grant and of the Councillor Gubby lead Rother District Council’s threat to close all of Rye’s toilets on April Fools Day. He praised Kerry de Courcy for his efforts to keep the T.I.C. alive in Rye by forming Rye Services Limited.

The Mayor of Rye, Councillor Ian Potter, made a clear and comprehensive report of the very recent happenings so as not to steal the limelight from subsequent committee reports of the year’s events. I was most impressed by his accurate assessment of the Heritage crisis and its solution.

He also alluded to the recently formed Democracy for Rye group and told the meeting that future presentations from them would be carefully considered.


I am hearing disquieting rumours that the construction of the Rye – Rye Harbour Cycle/Footpath may not be constructed as soon as we were being led to believe. Funding for the project has not been earmarked as Peter Jones reported, only funding for a ‘Feasibility Study’ has been forthcoming and even this, which is going to cost £20,000, has not yet commenced.

Councillor Jones, Leader of the East Sussex County Council has been doing his best to speed things up and it seems there is a chance that funding will be found for construction to start in September.

This is a classic case of red tape and regulations being put before the safety of citizens. I promise that this magazine will stay on the case and keep readers closely in touch with progress.

In light of the terrible death of Graham Matthews last autumn, construction of this project should have been started by now. Wo betide the County Council if any other cyclist or pedestrian is killed between now and the completion of the pathway. “Rye’s Own” will demand that those responsible for the delay are made aware of what their actions have resulted in.

Over the past forty years there have been many promises and at least two project studies, no path was built and more lives have been lost since. Enough is enough, the people of Rye Harbour and their children deserve better. For once let us cut through red tape and forget the stupid EEC regulations (as the French do) and put common sense first. Start the work now!

The Mayor’s Charity Auction

I enjoyed calling the Mayor’s Charity Auction at the Thomas Peacocke on 28 April.

It was good to see the hard work of Mayor Ian Potter, Mayoress Jessica Neame, organisers Sam and Kirsty and the many other helpers and donators turning out such a great success. Almost £2,500 was raised from the auction of the 65 lots and promises.

I was most impressed by the quality of the catalogue, which had descriptions and colour photographs of lots that would be the envy of many auction houses.

The Mayor’s Charity this year is ARRCC (Activity, Respite & Rehabilitation Care Centre) located behind the Memorial Care Centre in Rye. The aims and objectives are to work in partnership with care for the carers to provide support, advice and training, both to members and their carers to help reduce social exclusion and isolation.

Star lots of the evening were a Framed watercolour River Scene which made £200, a Rye hop Mug £190 and a Captain Pugwash painting by John Ryan which realised £150.

Thank you to everyone who helped with or supported this event, especially the Mayor who worked as ‘porter’ for most of the evening.

I hope the Rye Wheelers Fun Day on 28 May, in aid of the same cause, will attract as nice a bunch of people and prove to be an equal success.

Rye’s Own May 2005

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