U3A and the Mary Stanford


More than 100 members of the U3A (University of the Third Age) came last Monday January 16 to listen to Laton Frewen giving an illustrated talk on the Mary Stanford lifeboat disaster of 1928. Using more than 70 film slides from then until the present day, he described the continuing impact of that event on the families, on the village of Rye Harbour and on the whole nation.

Mary Stanford memorial after the wreath-laying ceremony

On the day of the disaster, November 15, 1928, 17 brave crewmen lost their lives – almost all the fishermen of Rye Harbour and three from one family alone. Hundreds of mourners came to the funeral service in the Church of the Holy Spirit from all over the British Isles, and some even from abroad. It made national headlines and the News of the World raised £75,000 in its disaster relief appeal. A black stone memorial tablet was erected in church by fishermen from the Isle of Man, the birthplace of the RNLI. A stained glass window in St Thomas’ Church, Winchelsea commemorates the event, which is remembered in the annual service at the simple stone memorial by Rye Harbour church. The final moving slide was of the Union Jack which had lain in the locker of the Mary Stanford as the vessel capsized. It had been retrieved and then presented to Mrs Albert Head the wife and mother of two of the lost men.

Laton Frewen is a master-storyteller and his measured and sombre voice was charged with emotion as he recounted the story. He concluded by referring to one important consequence, the design improvements subsequently introduced into lifeboats, which helps minimise the possibility of a similar tragedy occurring again.




Main photo: Kenneth Bird, Inset photo: KT Bruce

Image Credits: Kenneth Bird .

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