Highest honour for Rye voluntary stalwart and musician

Ann 'Lesley' Brownbill with her commemorative scroll after being made an Honourary Freewoman of the Antient Town of Rye with Rye mayor Jonathan Breeds and town sergeant Kevin Barry. Photo by Ray Prewer SUS-160712-110258001
Ann 'Lesley' Brownbill with her commemorative scroll after being made an Honourary Freewoman of the Antient Town of Rye with Rye mayor Jonathan Breeds and town sergeant Kevin Barry. Photo by Ray Prewer SUS-160712-110258001

A former professional musician from Rye was given the highest honour a parish council can award in recognition of 45 years spent volunteering in the community.

Ann Lesley Brownbill was presented with a commemorative gold scroll after being admitted as an honourary freewoman of Rye by Rye Town Council at its meeting on Monday (December 5).

The Ryesingers founder and music teacher is believed to be the first woman to receive the honour.

“I’m absolutely thrilled and so surprised, taken aback really and obviously delighted,” she said.

“It’s such a fabulous thing to happen, so unexpected and unsought really, it’s a huge honour as it’s the biggest honour the council can give to anyone in the town.”

Lesley, as she is known, moved to Rye 45 years ago and set up Ryesingers with women from the methodist church choir after previously being a part of the BBC Northern Singers.

The 77-year-old grandmother said four or five of the original members are still going after more than 2,000 meetings of the singers.

Lesley also privately teaches young musicians and has a hand in many other voluntary organisations around the town.

“You don’t do these things thinking, ‘I’m going to get some great honour for all this,’” she said.

“It’s been a hugely exciting adventure with all the things I’ve done.”

Mayor Jonathan Breeds presented her with the award at Monday’s council meeting and said it was a well-deserved honour.

“The council felt that she had improved the culture of the town of Rye for no remuneration for 45 years and it’s something that needed to be recognised,” he said.

Rye Town Council has only recently been allowed to award people with the honour which dates back to the medieval times, and Frank Palmer was given the prize earlier this year.

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