Even if you take only a passing interest in Hastings events the name Kevin Boorman will be familiar to you, via the press or television.
He is the town’s marketing and tourism manager and a home grown product; he has roots in Hastings that can be traced back centuries and a native understanding of the town. Kevin says: “Quite simply, I love Hastings, it is the most important place in the world to me. I am very proud I was born and brought up in its Old Town and that I have always lived there. All five of my children attended the Dudley Road School where my mother and I were also pupils. We have traced our ancestors back over 200 years; one was reputedly hanged for smuggling in the early 19th century. (Is this why the Hastings Smuggler’s Caves is Kevin’s favourite visitor attraction?)
But my relations have redeemed themselves since; my great-granddad was second cox of the lifeboat for many years. My nan was named after a boat the Hastings lifeboat rescued, after a particularly difficult launch in 1908, which later featured on a series of Judges postcards. My great-grandmother, over six months pregnant at the time, hadn’t expected to see her husband again, so dangerous was the sea. When the lifeboat returned safely my nan was given the middle name Amy, after the barge the lifeboat rescued. My nan’s brother, George Moon, was cox of the Hastings Lifeboat at the time of the Dunkirk evacuation and took our lifeboat to Dover. He was then relieved of command by a Royal Navy crew; he was very bitter that he wasn’t able to take the lifeboat across the channel.
In the early sixties, I used to love visiting Uncle George in the lifeboat house, where he worked. I liked to think I was helping him, but looking back I’m sure I was more of a hindrance than a help, but he still didn’t seem to mind me going. I’ve been a huge fan of the lifeboat ever since. I’ve seen some atrocious launches in Force 9 and 10 seas and have had the utmost respect for the brave lifeboat crews.
When I was at university I missed the Old Town, the sea, and Ecclesbourne Glen; I chose weekday-only digs so that I had to come home every weekend. Most Sundays I would walk around the twittens of the Old Town, enjoying the unique atmosphere, always pausing at the Lookout, at the bottom of Tackleway, to enjoy the views over the fishing beach.
Old Towners have always been rebellious; I remember how angry we all were in the late 1960s when we were told that for safety reasons the carnival couldn’t come to the Old Town. So what did we do? We organised our own Old Town Carnival, which still continues to this day. I took part in that first Old Town Carnival, perched on the back of a builder’s lorry, driven by my granddad.”
Further reading: Visions of Hastings a compilation by Earlyworks Press, gives the full version of Kevin Boorman’s story, along with memories and reflections on Hastings from 34 additional contributors. The book is available in Book Buster, 39 Queen’s Road.