Local lifeboat stalwart retires after more than 50 years of service

Rye Harbour Lifeboat is celebrating one of its great stalwarts who is retiring after more than five decades of dedicated service.

Betty Broocks was born in the Harbour ninety years ago and has dedicated fifty-five years of her life to fund-raising for RNLI Rye Harbour.

Betty comes from a family of RNLI folk: her mother’s father and one brother were in the crew.

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Her mother was part of a team that ran from the harbour to the old boathouse, a mile and a half away over rough terrain, to help launch the lifeboat.

Betty Brooks with the RNLI yellow welly SUS-210312-135933001

After the disaster of 1928 the Harbour did not get a lifeboat back until 1966.

Betty’s husband Terry was one of the first to volunteer to be part of the new crew of volunteers. to operare that lifeboat.

This was the start too of Betty’s amazing dedication to fund-raising. Everyone loves Betty and she has this wonderful calmness about her and a true generosity.

The first fundraisers were a group of wives of the crew and were called ‘The Lifeboat Ladies.’ One of the first things they did was to raise money for the crew’s wellies and later, anything that the crew required. After a few years the little group disbanded but Betty stayed on as part of the national fundraisers.

Betty Broocks by KT Bruce SUS-211213-150452001

Betty recalls those early days when she was a mother of two young children and used to panic when she heard the maroon go off because she was worried about her husband Terry going out in stormy seas.

The boat in those days was much smaller than today’s boats and no so well equipped.

Betty’s son-in-law Keith was part of the station and her grandson, Jai, joined the RNLI when he was 17 and is now full-time crew at Tower boat station on the Thames.

Betty said: “I couldn’t be more proud of all my family who have been involved with the RNLI and lifeboats are certainly in our family’s blood.”

In 2014 Betty was honoured by the RNLI for her efforts in fundraising and was invited to the Barbican to receive a gold badge for all the years of dedication.

This year marks Betty’s involvement for 55 years and also her 90th birthday and she has decided to stand down and take retirement although she will carry on taking a great interest in all that the fundraisers do in the future.

The station is so proud of her that Mark Stephenson, Head of Fundraising at the station, has given her a very important role, that of President of all the Fundraisers at the Harbour.

So, although she won’t be ‘hands on’, she will be part of the team who will carry on her amazing work.

Picture by KT Bruce.