Harbour girl meets Oxford headmaster

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In the seventies, I was brought up in a fishing family in Rye Harbour. At the weekends mum and dad would go to the Conqueror pub for a drink with their mates, and this usually included a good old sing-song of sea shanties.

In 1973 our little village of Rye Harbour was featured on the television in a programme called ‘Hometown’, and we were all stars for the night, shanty singers included. These are memories I will treasure always. The shanties that we learnt from our parents over the years had slowly faded away and community singing was replaced first by the jukebox and more recently by smartphones.

In 2014 more new people became part of our village, falling in love with the area and its history, in particular Martin Bruce, a retired Oxford headmaster and keen community member.

In 2018, Martin and his squeeze box, inspired by the old sea shanties (sung by Johnny Doughty) encouraged some of us villagers to rekindle the joy of group singing and Round Rye Bay Singers was formed. Since then we have enjoyed many evenings of practice at Rye Harbour village hall, with Martin leading us with his musical expertise. He has even composed two new shanties, one being in remembrance of the Rye Harbour lifeboat disaster in 1928, the other commemorating the sad story of Johnny All-Alone.

We meet once a fortnight and new members are always welcome. It is such fun, and we eagerly practice learning the shanties as well as getting singing tips from Martin. We have sung at community venues including Badger Gate in Rye, and Strand Court, and recently at Rye Harbour Social Club. We are always eager for our next gig.

Look out for us! You never know – you might join in!

Image Credits: Pam Carroll .

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