www.hastingsonlinetimes.co.uk     Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

The Lily Bish aka The Ghost of Dunkirk Photo Chandra Masoliver

The Ghost of Dunkirk moves to a new home

On Saturday 17 June, the ‘Cyril and Lilian Bishop’, Hastings’ lifeboat from 1931-1950, our ‘Ghost of Dunkirk’, is moving to her final resting place. HOT’s Chandra Masoliver asks Dee-Day White and Tush Hamilton how they inspired countless local people to become involved in the project. 

If ever a boat deserved to be retired and moored on land for all to see, it’s the ‘Cyril and Lilian Bishop’, best known as the ‘Lily Bish’. When she lies at the top of All Saint’s Street opposite All Saints Church, where so many of her crew were christened, married and buried, it will be a proud moment for our town, and for the many people who have made this possible.

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Final mooring for grand old lady of the sea

Wednesday 14 June at mid-day: The ‘Lily Bish’, known as the ‘Ghost of Dunkirk’ because of her history during the last world war, will be placed, fully restored, on The Stade.

Friday 16 June  at 6pm: There will be music and a fund-raising auction of donated maritime goods to raise funds for the Trust. Dee-Day and John ‘Tush’ Hamilton will give a talk, and Jonathan Mendenhall a storyline, followed by a dedication to Hastings RNLI and fishermen.

Saturday 17 June: All Saints Street will be closed and emptied of cars. Supervised by the Commodore of EHSAA, Les Watson, and his crew, and pulled by 150 volunteers, the ‘Lily Bish’ will make her way up All Saints Street, serenaded by the RX Sea Shanty Singers.

The Crown, then the Cinque Ports and finally, the Stag, will offer light refreshments. Then she will make her last manoeuvre across Harold Road to her new dry dock to be welcomed by a group from The Stables Theatre, dressed in period costume. The church bells will ring out as her mast and sails are raised, and the whole event will be filmed by the BBC.

The Blessing of the Sea

The ceremony of Blessing the Sea

A traditional ceremony is sustained

For centuries, the ceremony of Blessing the Sea has been a yearly event, traditionally held on board the lifeboat on the Wednesday after Rogation Sunday. So each year of her working life, the ‘Lily Bish’ would have been blessed.

In 1938, God was asked to bless “the harvest of the sea and those who toil on the deep, our sailors, our fishermen, and our Navy”. In 1940 the service began at the altar of All Saints’ Church, and then, as usual, from the ‘Lily Bish’. That year there was the reminder that as well as facing tempests, there was the danger of a ‘cruel foe’ for the men who laboured on the sea.

Towards the end of her working life, in 1948, the Hastings Observer reported that “with the incoming tide swirling round his feet, the Rector stood on the sands and blessed the sea. He sprinkled holy water on the waves and offered incense, watched by hundreds of people. Later the same evening, as the setting sun bronzed the masts of the fishing boats on the beach, and cast long shadows from the pitch black net-houses, he blessed the sea from the Hastings lifeboat at the Stade”.

Now it is time for her final blessing: on Saturday, 17 June at 10.30am, Father Featherstone will bless the ‘Cyril and Lilian Bishop’ before she goes on her last journey, up All Saints’ Street at 11.00 am. Two maroons will be sent up by Rebel Pyrotechnics as she leaves, and two more when she arrives – two maroons being the standard emergency call-out signal.

This is the culmination of extraordinary hard work by the people of Hastings Old Town and beyond. Tush and Dee-Day have inspired so many people to bless their project with generosity, donating money and expert services.

John Tush Hamilton and Dee Day

John Tush Hamilton and Dee Day White

Tush described the work he oversaw: “When she came back from France, we got her off the trailer and pulled her into the Angling compound and we went all round her to see her condition. We stripped her back and rubbed her down nearly to the bare hull – that took two months. Then we had a chap to sandblast her bottom – lying on his back and wearing protective goggles against the sharp sand, he cleared away all the growth and paint – I can’t imagine a worse job, it took 14 hours.

“The carpenters did the main job; one carpenter and his mate have been working on her every week for eleven months. First they put the deck down, then they repaired the two top boxes – there’s one at each end of the boat, built up so they roll her back up if she goes over. They were in a terrible condition and hadn’t been touched since she was built. Then there was the engine case to do, that was all made of mahogany. The strake (protective line of wood just below the deck) needed repairing.

“Many thanks to Quadmost and Louis Engineering: these two Hastings’ steel works did the 16 scuppers (they open like a cat flap to let the water off the deck, and then close again), the irons on the bilges, handrails and various metal fittings.

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The Lily Bish having been given much TLC. Photo Chandra Masoliver

“Then the painters moved in – they did the undercoat in January and now she’s in her colours of red, white and blue. Her name has been finished in gold leaf by Robert Finn, master sign-writer from Hastings. And I’ve made the rope work and the sails; they are in a bigger mesh than I’d planned because she’ll be lying broadside to the prevailing south-westerly wind.

“If not for the angling club, where could we have put her? The Boatman there has helped all the time, he always knows who to ask, and he’ll be in charge of pulling her up the road. My job will be to stand and watch, the same as when I was head launcher, as I know what could go wrong – the first part of All Saints Street is very narrow. She’ll go up on plastic trows (blocks like are used to haul the fishing boats up the beach.) Then she’ll rest on oak sleepers, lying on her starboard side, with her sails up, so she looks like she’s sailing.”

Dee-Day definitely has the gift of the gab and of persuasion. He has been responsible for fund-raising and organising everything. So many people have given donations, and businesses have given their services and materials for free, or at cost price.

The Cyril and Lilian Bishop's final resting place: at the end of All Saints' Street and Harold Road in Hastings Old Town

The Cyril and Lilian Bishop’s final resting place. Photo Chandra Masoliver

The ‘Lily Bish’s’ dry dock has been created by Ray and Alan of Design and Build; it looks splendid. Dee-Day said “We started it without permission, with the risk of having to reinstate everything. We needed a month to do the harbour for her, and we’d asked the local and the county council, conservation, planning etc. nearly a year ago. East Sussex County Council only got back to us with the ok last Friday!

“Terry Drinkwater, in charge of Parks and Gardens, has been unbelievably helpful,” said Dee-Day, “The footprint (base) has grown bigger than we originally asked for. I said that was dictated by the lie of the land, and Terry jokingly replied, “That’s the lie of the year!”

“Boxbourne Plant Hire gave us the digger and roller, there were huge rocks there. One evening I put an old rubber skeleton from my garage in a hole and covered it over roughly with earth. Next day there was a panic, and they said we’d need to close the site. I said “Let’s just chuck it in the skip and carry on!”

“Aviva of Ninfield sold us beautiful Indian sandstone slabs at a cheaper price than concrete would have been. Littlewoods gave us uprights for the ropes. Parker Building Supplies donated most of the building materials. She looks so good because of all the paint Trade Paints gave us; plus help from David Kirtley.

John and his wife, Pat and Dee-Day with his wife, Bev

John and his wife, Pat and Dee-Day with his wife, Bev. Photo Chandra Masoliver

“The Electricity Board said it would cost £2,500 with a six week wait to lay the cable for lighting; but they did it in three days for free.

“The whole of the site had no water, so Bev did a shuttle service of water, tea, coffee and sandwiches for a four week period. When it was all done, and the turf laid, I called the Fire Brigade and asked them to wash the site down. They said “That’s saucy! We fight fires, rescue people, even get kittens out of trees, but we don’t wash building sites down or water new turf.” I told them it was their boat they’d be pulling up and putting on a dirty site, and they said: “We’ll be up in ten minutes!” Two fire appliances and twelve firemen washed everything down, including each other. 150 volunteers, including fire fighters, Bonfire Boys and Sea Cadets will be pulling her up on Saturday, so they were pleased to be involved with the washing down.”

So here’s a fine few days to be looking forward to!

Dee Day and John with The Lily Bish Photo Chandra Masoliver

Dee Day and John with The Lily Bish Photo Chandra Masoliver

Chandra Masoliver will close this story next week with a few stories about Dee-Day White, Tush Hamilton and their two strong wives, Bev and Pat!

The Ghost of Dunkirk: A film posted on Youtube by Darianne Taberer.

Link to previous HOT articles on The Ghost of Dunkirk by Chandra Masoliver:

Save our legendary lifeboat (I)

Save our legendary lifeboat (II)

Posted 15:42 Monday, Jun 12, 2017 In: Home Ground

2 Comments


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  1. Zelly Restorick

    Unfortunately we don’t have a copy for the archives, but we’re very glad you enjoyed Chandra’s article. She’s writing another one next week. Thanks for contacting us.

    Comment by Zelly Restorick — Wednesday, Jun 14, 2017 @ 05:43

  2. Paul and Christine Reed

    We have really enjoyed Chandra’s articles about saving the old lifeboats and the personal interest and response to achieving this. We were wondering if a hard copy is going into the local archives?

    Comment by Paul and Christine Reed — Tuesday, Jun 13, 2017 @ 16:50

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