Hastings character Dee Day White laments the loss of a local landmark

Lifeboat at Winkle Island SUS-190215-114800001
Lifeboat at Winkle Island SUS-190215-114800001

Dee Day White shared with us this amazing picture which not only shows the iconic Hastings lifeboat Cyril and Lilian Bishop during a visit by Field Marshal Montgomery and a snow covered beach in the background, but local landmark Tom’s Cabin, which was demolished to make way for the Jerwood Gallery.

Dee Day writes: This building was, from the front, a typical seaside shop selling Hastings rock, candyfloss, ice creams and saucy postcards, which could make a young boy like me quite embarrassed.

It also sold tea and cakes, with the cakes supplied by Judges in the High Street.

But the backroom was a different kettle of fish.

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Though the room was only small, it was always busy with our local fishermen. It had benches, two small tables, a tiny counter and even a small fireplace, that was lit in winter burning scrap wood from the beach and broken furniture which had been dumped. It was always busy with fishermen talking about leanos, otter boards, ground ropes, wallings and meshes.

All of this talk went over my head. I was there with my big brother Bertie White and my bacon sandwich (two thick doorsteps from Judges) and a mug of tea for 3d.

The back door overlooked the coach park, beach and boats, so while yarning and drinking tea, the fishermen could watch what was going on.

It was a meeting place for everyone.

Wives and family members would come down to get fish fresh from the boat, wrapped in newspaper for that night’s meal.

Living in the Dolphin pub, this building was right on my doorstep.

The position of this iconic building, right opposite Winkle Island, at the start of Rock-a-Nore, seemed to make it more important.

So when in 1946, Hastings invited Lord Montgomery down to join the Winkle Club, this was the chosen venue.

On March 8 1946, the Hastings Lifeboat Cyril and Lilian Bishop (The Ghost of Dunkirk). was pulled out of the lifeboat house by two horses and positioned outside Tom’s Cabin.

My mum and dad and brother Bertie were there as well as the BBC (it is still available to view on the internet).

Hornbrooks Radio Service was asked to supply two microphone and four loud speakers to cover the event.

The lifeboat crew dressed for sea, wearing their Kapok life jackets (I still have my dad’s dated 1931).

Bunk Harffey was MC for the event and enrolled Lord Montgomery in the Winkle Club.

On this day the deck of the lifeboat was full of Mayors and dignitaries, with the upper view of Tom’s Cabin providing grand-stand views, with my dad leaning against the mast.

The photo shows horse drawn capstans and tank traps, three deep, restricting access to the beach. It was out of bounds during the war.

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