One family’s dedication to Rye Harbour RNLI station

Jean, Steve and Joseph Brown ' a family of RNLI volunteers. Photos by Kt Bruce.
Jean, Steve and Joseph Brown ' a family of RNLI volunteers. Photos by Kt Bruce.

A dedicated family based at Rye Harbour RNLI has clocked up an incredible 40,996,800 minutes of volunteering work.

For 2,459,808,000 seconds, the Brown family consisting of Steve, Jean and Joe have been associated with the lifeboat station in the heart of the village – that is 78 years collectively and still counting.

Steve and Joe Brown. Photo by Kt Bruce.

Steve and Joe Brown. Photo by Kt Bruce.

Steve Brown joined the RNLI in 1989 when he was living in the Harbour. He was very close friends with the Robus family, Keith Robus being one of the first helmsmen. Steve joined as shore crew although he had initially wanted to be on the boat; being colour-blind put an end to those dreams.

Instead, he became part of a team of drivers who manoeuvred the Unimog tractors to enable a launch to take place. The Unimog is a range of multi-purpose, all-wheel drive medium trucks.

Today, Steve drives a Talus tractor which has been specially built for the job and enables the driver to control the vehicle in both directions.

When Steve joined the RNLI he gained a second family: everyone looks out for each other and there is a great sense of camaraderie. Steve said: “When you travel around the coast and visit other stations you always receive a warm welcome. It is good too, to see how other stations operate and pick up different ideas.”

Steve Brown's 30 year long service medal. Photo by Kt Bruce.

Steve Brown's 30 year long service medal. Photo by Kt Bruce.

His enthusiastic wife Jean, who has been fundraising for the RNLI for over 40 years, supports Steve at home and at the station. She is always willing to lend a helping hand and is a great baker. They are in their turn supported by their son Joe, who is in the Navy and when at home is a helm at the station. He joined eight years ago so has a little catching up to do to emulate them.

Steve recalls that his proudest moment over the 30 years of service was the day he drove the tractor when Joe, his son, was going out to be assessed as a full helm.

Steve said: “Having passed out successfully I just hope that he does 30 years now.”

There have been some interesting stories to tell about the shouts and training exercises: none more interesting than the day the tractor got sunk in the notorious mud down at the beach and was totally submerged, luckily without a tractor driver inside! They had to wait UNTIL next day’s low tide to recover it.

Joseph Brown. Photo by Kt Bruce.

Joseph Brown. Photo by Kt Bruce.

Steve loves to fish and go clay-pigeon shooting in his spare time – not that he gets a great deal of that with the family’s RNLI commitments.

Joe added: “The RNLI has always been a big part of my life as both Mum and Dad have been involved with it since before I was born.

“Dad has always had a pager for as long as I can remember. So for me to follow in his footsteps and join the RNLI was a natural path for me.

“The only difficulty now is that Mum has to deal with two people running out of the house when the pager goes off, not just one. Many dinners are abandoned and family get togethers postponed but everyone understands.”

Steve Brown. Photo by Kt Bruce.

Steve Brown. Photo by Kt Bruce.

Paul Anderson sharing a joke with Steve. Photo by Kt Bruce.

Paul Anderson sharing a joke with Steve. Photo by Kt Bruce.