Rye: John Ryan, creator of Captain Pugwash 1921 – 2009

Tucked between the green fields of Sussex and the English Channel is the small town of Rye.  With a picturesque and well-preserved medieval centre, this is a popular place to visit.  The crooked half-timbered houses and cobbled streets give visitors a sense that they have travelled back in time.  We visited the Rye Castle Museum and there learnt that John Ryan, the creator of Captain Pugwash, was a Rye resident.

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Facing Rye’s railway station

John Ryan moved to Rye towards the end of his life.  He wrote numerous books but is perhaps best known for the TV cartoon series Captain Pugwash about a group of pirates that was first shown in the 1950s in black and white.  Later series were filmed in colour.  Captain Pugwash is shown as a mostly harmless pirate who gets into various scrapes but always survives to sail again, thanks to the quick wits of cabin-boy Tom.  During each episode Captain Pugwash will exclaim such things as, ‘Coddling catfish! Suffering seagulls!’ or ‘Kipper me capstans!’  As a child I loved these beautifully created cartoon antics.  An urban myth that there were risque names in the cartoons appeared in the 1970s and John Ryan won libel damages from two newspapers who published stories saying these names were why Captain Pugwash was removed from the schedules.

Wandering around the town, I found this memorial bench to John Ryan, near the railway station and opposite the local Jempson’s supermarket.  Placing the bench at the centre of Rye will ensure he is always remembered locally.

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This garden is dedicated to the artist JOHN RYAN (1921-2009) creator of ‘Captain Pugwash’ and many stories that delight children of all ages; much loved resident and benefactor of Rye.

Eastbourne: Les Symons 1920 – 2018 & Lilian Symons

There are quite a few memorial benches along the sea front at Eastbourne.  I strolled along above the sea in the sunshine reading each dedication and waiting for one to catch my eye.  We were on our way up to Beachy Head, a wonderful viewpoint that was a landmark for German bombers during the Second World War.  They dropped any leftover bombs onto the town.

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The sea front at Eastbourne

This memorial bench to Lilian Symons and Les Symons, and particularly the inscription on the plaque to Les Symons, suggests two happy dancers.  Les Symons lived a long life and died at the age of 98.  His obituary says he was a teacher at Hooe Primary School and St Mary’s School (later Ocklynge Junior School).  Greatly missed by his family and friends, it was recognised that he would also be missed by those who met him on his regular walks along the prom.

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LES SYMONS 1920 – 2018 “Oh, how we danced”

The loving inscription to Lilian Symons is carved into the bench, whereas there is a plaque to Les Symons.  This suggests to me that Lilian Symons died before Les Symons.  I imagine Les Symons walking along the prom and resting on this memorial bench remembering Lilian Symons and perhaps re-living a dance in his head.

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Ashdown Forest:Luke Power & Tom Dawes July / Nov 1994 -14/09/2014

On a sandy ridge in the High Weald of East Sussex is a beautiful woodland.  A Norman deer hunting forest, today Ashdown Forest is visited by walkers and those seeking the places that inspired AA Milne and the Winnie-the-Pooh stories.  Ashdown Forest is a stunning combination of woodland primarily made up of sweet chestnut, hazel, alder, silver birch, oak and Scots pine and open heathland with heather and low-growing shrubs.

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Looking over Ashdown Forest

It was a sunny early spring day when we climbed out of our campervan to explore this natural area.  Finding this memorial bench to Luke Power, 20, from Turners Hill, and Tom Dawes, 19, from Forest Row, I wanted to know more about these two young men.  Luke Power and Thomas Dawes were both motorcyclists who very sadly died following a collision with a Range Rover at Chuck’s Hatch on the B2026 at its junction with Wren’s Warren on Sunday 14 September 2014.

Linda Dawes, the mother of Tom Dawes movingly said, ‘Life goes on but Thomas will never be forgotten. He will always be loved and in our hearts and thoughts forever.  He was born to be wild.’

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Luke Power Tom Dawes July/Nov 1994 – 14/09/2014 In Loving Memory of Our Boys.  Truly Loved & Dearly Missed.  Forever In OUr Hearts & Thoughts.  Never Forgotten By All Their Family and Devoted FReidns XxXxXxX

The death of Luke Power and Tom Dawes at such a young age clearly devastated their family and also touched their friends.  The memorial bench I stumbled upon was erected following a collection at a memorial football match between a team of Sackville School teachers, led by Luke’s brother, and a team from the Forest Row Football Club.  The match raised the money to erect the bench near the spot where the two young men died.

Local bikers and friends arranged a memorial ride on a glorious September day.  One friend posted photographs on Facebook and paid tribute to the two bikers, writing, ‘If Tom Dawes and Luke Power could have been in there today they would’ve been in their element! Such a lovely day and an amazing turnout. Rest In Peace Boys.’  The photographs show a banner, ‘We ride together, We die together, Burn rubber not your soul, Our ‘Lukey’ Our ‘Tom’ see you in your garage.’  The number of people at the event show how loved and missed the two are.