RNLI award for ‘pirate’s’ wife

Dedicated fundraiser: Priscilla Ryan receives her award from Katherine Vasey

Priscilla Ryan, one of Rye’s most well-loved residents, received special recognition from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution at an informal ceremony at Rye Town Hall on April 24.  For more than 60 years’ service in fundraising for the RNLI, Priscilla was given a bar to the gold badge she received 10 years ago. Presenting the award, Katherine Vasey, South East area manager of the charity, said: “This is our most prestigious volunteering award which supports the work of the lifeboat crews.”

In her reply, Priscilla recounted how she was just 19 when she started collecting donations from passengers at London’s Victoria Coach station and at the Ideal Home Exhibition. Later, door to door collections were made “after 6 pm because that’s when the menfolk got home with change in their pockets”.

When Priscilla and her husband John, the cartoonist and animator best-known for his character Captain Pugwash, came to live in Rye in 1987 the work continued, with the occasional Pugwash sketch being contributed to the cause.

“We became Rye people as much as we could, for of course we weren’t born here,” Priscilla said, raising a wry smile from the audience of family, friends and colleagues in Rye Council Chamber – all of them treated to generous refreshments prepared by another well-loved Rye personality Rae Festing.

For many years Priscilla was the president of the RNLI’s Rye, Winchelsea and District Branch and retained the position when it merged with Rye Harbour Lifeboat Station Branch.

The RNLI gold badge with bar
The RNLI gold badge with bar

As the years ticked on, Priscilla didn’t shy away from the many challenges and changes that were facing the RNLI. Until taking steps to slow down, she could be found in the souvenir shop at Rye Harbour RNLI Lifeboat Station on weekends.  Priscilla has now retired from the volunteering world of the RNLI but still promotes it to the fullest, raising funds where she can.

Steve Tollett, chairman of Rye Harbour’s lifeboat management group, said: “Priscilla is a true stalwart of the RNLI.  Our fundraising committee felt that it would be appropriate for her to be nominated for an award for her support and dedication. On behalf of everyone at Rye Harbour RNLI Lifeboat Station, I would like to congratulate her on her prestigious RNLI award and thank her for all her support she has given to the local fundraising branches over the many years.”

During the past year, 15 launchings have been made from Rye Harbour to rescue two dozen people.

Priscilla’s fund-raising also helped the purchase of a new state-of-the-art lifeboat for Dungeness station.