Local heroes are setting a whole new benchmark

Tyrone Wildman, one of the local heroes selected to appear on the portrait bench
Tyrone Wildman, one of the local heroes selected to appear on the portrait bench

THREE inspirational heroes who will be immortalised on an eye-catching portrait bench on a new cycle path have been named.

Popular BMX rider Richard Boyley Ball, the much-loved sporting figure Tyrone Wildman, and legendary comedian Spike Milligan topped the public poll to choose three well-known names who will be honoured with life-sized sculptures.

The Observer joined forces with East Sussex County Council (ESCC) and Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity overseeing the new Hastings to Bexhill cycle path, to find three figures to represent the two towns on the bench.

More than 40 people were put forward as possibilities, who were then whittled down to a shortlist of nine.

And after three weeks of furious voting, during which more than 430 votes were cast, the three winners emerged ahead of an impressive field which also included John Logie Baird, the inventor of television, the codebreaker and computer scientist Alan Turing, and the author Robert Tressell.

Richard Boyley Ball was not only a massively talented BMX rider, he also worked tirelessly to promote the sport.

In 2001 he set the wheels in motion for the White Rock Skate Park, bringing people together and raising funds.

Sadly, he died the following year in a motorbike accident, but has since become a talisman of the town’s vibrant BMX and skating community.

Richard’s dad, Charlie, said: “As a family we are absolutely delighted and extremely proud that Richard will be part of the portrait bench.

“We want to thank everyone who voted for our much-loved son, brother, uncle and friend.”

Originally from Jamaica, Tyrone Wildman moved to 1066 Country in the early 1970s.

From then, until his death in December, he became a major player in the local sporting scene.

A pivotal part of Sidley Cricket Club and Hollington Table Tennis Club, a talented footballer and one of the top natural bodybuilders in the UK, he could turn his hand to anything – and he also helped inspire many others as a gym instructor at Falaise Fitness Centre.

Tyrone’s wife, Kathy, said: “It will be a great way for people to remember him.

“Tyrone would have been so pleased to have to been one of three.”

Spike Milligan was one of the nation’s best-loved performers, a national comedian who continues to hold a very high place in the public’s affection.

He was stationed in Bexhill during the Second World War and later lived in Rye – he is buried at St Thomas’s Church in Winchelsea.

Katy Hallett, of Sustrans, was thrilled residents had voted for “a real mix of people who mean so much to their local community” while Councillor Matthew Lock, the lead member for transport at ESCC added: “We should all be very proud of the achievements of these three wonderful people and we will be able to remember them every time we use this fantastic new path.”

The path is due to open in November.