The raising of the English flag at St Mary’s last Saturday afternoon was a close run thing. The Keeper of the Tower, John Gurney, found there was a problem with the flagpole, as the halyards (the ropes used to raise or lower a sail or yard, or indeed a flag) had seized, preventing all movement.
It was the impending Grand Slam rugby match in Paris, he said, with the prospect of an England victory, that determined him to investigate the cause. With Town Councillor Andy Rivett from the boatyard helping, John lowered the pole on its hinge, but found it overhung the parapet way beyond reach.
Together, and now joined by Colonel Anthony Kimber, they un-stepped it from its tabernacle (a hinged mounting for a mast or pole so it can be lowered) and hauled it inboard as it were, to use the nautical language of yachtsmen.
They found the rope that runs through the pole was embedded and securely held in metal. John then recalled the report from churchwarden Anne Wood that someone had seen lightning strike the tower in a storm last year.
At the time, no damage was visible and the story was dismissed, but it was now evident that the lightning conductor had been struck and partially melted.
A temporary jury rig was installed, the pole was re-stepped and, on learning the glad victory tidings, the flag of St George was proudly raised. More lasting repairs will need to be undertaken by contractors.
Meanwhile, the flag remains flying, in readiness for the St George’s Day parade on Sunday April 24. The service at St Mary’s starts at 10:30 am and all are welcome.
It will be preceded by a parade of service, civil and youth organisations starting from Adams in the High Street at 10:15 am which then passes in front of Rye Town Hall, where the Mayor will receive the salute.
Photo: Kenneth Bird