Rye Harbour RNLI bids farewell to a ‘good man.’

Lifeboats News Release

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.

coffin shrouded in a RNLI flag carried by RNLI crew

RNLI/KT Bruce

Keith Downey's coffin being carried into Rye Harbour Church by RNLI crew

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.

RNLI Media contacts

• Kt Bruce, Rye Harbour RNLI volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer (07789) 818878 Kt@ktbrucephotography.com

• Paul Dunt, Regional Media Officer (South East), 0207 6207426, 07785 296252 paul_dunt@rnli.org.uk

• For enquiries outside normal business hours, contact the RNLI duty press officer on 01202 336789

RNLI online: For more information on the RNLI please visit http://www.rnli.org/. News releases and other media resources, including RSS feeds, downloadable photos and video, are available at the RNLI News Centre.

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.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 or by email.

The RNLI is a charity registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736). Charity number 20003326 in the Republic of Ireland.


three RNLi crew from the 1960's in the Harbour

RNLI/KT Bruce

Three RNLI crew 1966 founders of the renewed RNLI station in the Harbour
photo of the crew from the Harbour in the 1970's

RNLI/KT Bruce

the crew photograph from the early 70's

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 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.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or or by email.

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