A GROUP of enthusiasts from the Old Town is behind a project to restore a historic lifeboat with the aim of putting it on public display.
The Priscilla MacBean, the first beach-launched lifeboat designed for motor and sail and oars, was built in 1921 in Cowes, and on more than one occasion launched on service in conjunction with the Hastings Lifeboat.
Old Towner D-Day White spotted the hull of the vessel in a field in Hailsham, and when he discovered it was to be left to rot was determined to recover the boat if at all possible. Together with Tush Hamilton he purchased the boat which has now been moved to Hastings for restoration.
The project team has grown to include Charlie Sharrod, a former Hastings lifeboat coxswain, along with other present and past lifeboatmen at Hastings and the East Hastings Sea Angling Club.
Charlie said: “The Priscilla MacBean is important as she was the first motor lifeboat to be launched off of a beach designed and built for motor and ‘sail and oars’.
“Built in 1921 at J Samuel Whites in Cowes she was originally intended for service at Eastbourne and on more than one occasion launched on service in conjunction with the Hastings Lifeboat.
“However she was not considered suitable for the English Channel and in 1928 was moved to Kirkcudbright in Scotland to cover the area of the Solway Firth.
“A few years later she was moved across the Solway Firth to Maryport in Cumbria to continue her service in saving life and finally was retired from RNLI service in 1934.”
More recently The Priscilla MacBean has been used for leisure in France, operated as a pleasure boat on Lake Windermere, and used as a houseboat.
Once restored, the boat is to be placed in a prominent position in Hastings Old Town.
Charlie added: “Hastings will be the first town in Sussex to have a historic lifeboat and once restored the boat will be a lasting legacy to the history of Hastings Old Town and its lifeboatmen.
“In addition it will be a permanent reminder of the risks taken by our men and women who crew the lifeboats.”
Mayor Alan Roberts said: “I was honoured and proud to see the old lifeboat delivered to Hastings, right next to the current lifeboat house, and very close to where the old Hastings lifeboat, with which the Priscilla MacBean used to work.
He added: “We are rightly very proud of our lifeboats here in Hastings, and I look forward to seeing the boat fully restored.”