Rye Harbour RNLI bids farewell to a ‘good man.’
Keith Downey was born in Rye Harbour on 8th December 1934. After leaving school he did his National Service and then signed up for a further three years.
In 1957 he married Mary, the girl next-door, and last year they celebrated their Diamond Wedding Anniversary and received a letter from the Queen. Keith always said that his wedding day was the best day of his life.
In 1966 the RNLI was revived in the village thanks to the determination of Keith, Alan Haffenden and Roy Gawn to get it up and running again. Since the Mary Stanford disaster in 1928, when all seventeen crew from the Harbour lost their lives, there had been no RNLI presence there and it was warmly welcomed back by the villagers. Amongst the many shouts he attended was the rescue of two women and a child from the ketch Midley Belle. For this he received a framed letter of thanks from the chairman of the RNLI, which had pride of place in his home.
Keith enjoyed many years in the Rye Harbour tug-of-war ream. He spent most of his working life at Gould and Co., based in the village, as a crane driver. His skills came in very handy when a whale was washed up on the slipway and he took his crane round to the harbour and lifted the whale on to a lorry to be taken to safety.
Alan Haffenden, remembering Keith, said, ‘ He was a good man and was dedicated to bringing the RNLI back to the village, which had been devastated by the Mary Stafford disaster in 1928. He lost his uncle Maurice Williams on that awful night. The RNLI was dear to his heart.’
He was much loved in the village and will be sorely missed by his family and friends.
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• Kt Bruce, Rye Harbour RNLI volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer (07789) 818878 Kt@ktbrucephotography.com
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Key facts about the RNLI
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is the charity that saves lives at sea. Our volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service in the United Kingdom and Ireland from 237 lifeboat stations, including four along the River Thames and inland lifeboat stations at Loch Ness, Lough Derg, Enniskillen and Lough Ree. Additionally the RNLI has more than 1,000 lifeguards on over 180 beaches around the UK and operates a specialist flood rescue team, which can respond anywhere across the UK and Ireland when inland flooding puts lives at risk.
The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. As a charity it is separate from, but works alongside, government-controlled and funded coastguard services. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 our lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved at least 140,000 lives. Volunteers make up 95% of the charity, including 4,600 volunteer lifeboat crew members and 3,000 volunteer shore crew. Additionally, tens of thousands of other dedicated volunteers raise funds and awareness, give safety advice, and help in our museums, shops and offices.
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The RNLI is a charity registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736). Charity number 20003326 in the Republic of Ireland.
Key facts about the RNLI
The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.