Historic lifeboat rescued from a Hailsham berth

Priscilla MacBean SUS-140821-090957001
Priscilla MacBean SUS-140821-090957001

An historic lifeboat launched from Eastbourne 96 years ago has been rescued from a field and restored.

The Priscilla MacBean, the town’s first motor-powered lifeboat, was spotted in a Hailsham field last November by an antiques dealer. Trees were growing through the rotting hull and all fittings had been torn out.

Now, thanks to the hard work of around 20 volunteers, the boat is set for a permanent mooring in the Old Town of Hastings. Bob Jeffery, spokesman for Eastbourne lifeboat crew, said his team was delighted to see the Priscilla restored.

“We are so pleased that she’s survived, and will now be there for people to see the kind of lifeboats that were working at that time,” he said.

Members of the Eastbourne crew will join RNLI Hastings to pull the Priscilla MacBean by hand from the Stade beach in Hastings to its dry dock on Old London Road on November 15. Church bells will toll during the ceremony, which is timed to remember the Rye lifeboat disaster of 1928, when the Mary Stanford capsized and lost all 17 hands.

Two Hastings men - Tush Hamilton and DeeDay White - are behind the restoration. Tush, who has made a new sail for the lifeboat from old fishing nets, said, “She was in a terrible state, and from that pile of nothing she now looks really good.

“We could only have done this with the help of a lot of people, and we are all so proud to see her ready.”

The Priscilla MacBean has a fascinating history. Built on the Isle of Wight in 1921, she was Eastbourne’s main lifeboat for years before moving to Scotland and being retired from the RNLI in 1934. She was then used in France and in the Lake District before ending up the Hailsham field, where DeeDay spotted her in November.

Tush and DeeDay are now appealing for any memories or photographs of the Priscilla for an exhibition. Residents who can help should get in touch with Charlie Sharrod on 01424 755567.