New musical based on lifeboat disaster

Mary Stanford Lifeboat Memorial Service at Rye Harbour Church '15.11.09.'Memorial to the 17 fishermen who lost their lives AH47605f'Photo by: TONY COOMBES PHOTOGRAPHY
Mary Stanford Lifeboat Memorial Service at Rye Harbour Church '15.11.09.'Memorial to the 17 fishermen who lost their lives AH47605f'Photo by: TONY COOMBES PHOTOGRAPHY

The Haven Players in Eastbourne are staging a new musical play called Mary’s Boys based on a south coast lifeboat which occurred tragedy 85 years ago.

In the early hours of November 15, 1928, the Rye Harbour lifeboat Mary Stanford answered a call to a cargo ship in distress eight miles from Dungeness. The crew comprised 17 local men, many in their early 20s, who ran a mile-and-a-half to the lifeboat and battled hard to drag the boat across the shingle beach and into the water.

It was the worst storm Rye had ever seen and they only managed to get just outside the harbour when the boat disappeared from view.

Unbeknown to the crew as they struggled with oars and sails, the cargo ship had been rescued by a passing passenger vessel. The local coastguard tried in vain to recall the lifeboat with flares and loud hailers but the storm was too strong and all the men lost their lives in the worst lifeboat tragedy in the life of the RNLI.

Mary’s Boys has been written by Langney Primary School headteacher Darren Vallier and two of his colleagues Gaynor Newnham and Michelle Pollard.

Darren wrote the play after hearing about the disaster following a school trip and discovering about a Memorial Service for the lifeboat crew.

The musical is set on the day of the tragedy and has sad undertones but it captures the camaraderie and humour of the crew and their families and is intended as a tribute to them. The musical is being staged at Eastbourne College Theatre from October 24-26.