By Richard Price

The Ghost of Dunkirk

In 2014 Hastings residents saved the Priscilla MacBean lifeboat, which can been seen at the Junction of Harold Road and Old London Road, and in 2016 Hastings residents helped to return an important piece of maritime culture and heritage to the town. People contributed time and money to bring the Cyril and Lilian Bishop lifeboat back from a boatyard in France and pay for its restoration.

Many of the donations had an emotional element. The daughter of a soldier rescued from Dunkirk made a generous donation so that she could spend time sitting next to the boat that had brought her Dad back.

The lifeboat has been nicknamed The Ghost of Dunkirk after Trooper Stephenson’s story. He had been queuing on a wooden jetty for a considerable time for a ship that he could see in the distance, when he was asked to turn back as it was departing. Later that evening he approached his commanding officer and asked him if he could attempt to swim to the ship as he was a strong swimmer. He set off at dawn but it was misty with strong currents and he got disorientated, cold and very tired. He was thinking of giving up and coming to terms with the fact that he was about  to drown. The mist parted for a and Stephenson thought he must be delusional. It appeared from nowhere, like a ghost ship. Trooper Stephenson was rescued by the Cyril and Lilian Bishop lifeboat and was ferried to the ship that he had been trying to reach. The lifeboat returned to Hastings with a hole in her bow and sand in her masthead.

Several pages of the fascinating history of the lifeboat detailing many of its exploits and the lives saved can be found in Steve Peak’s book, Fishermen of Hastings. The Cyril and Lilian Bishop is an important artefact that needs our help. One final push is needed before The Ghost of Dunkirk can become a permanent fixture in Hastings. The MacBean and Bishop Trust need a volunteer who knows how to set up crowdfunding. They need to raise about £10,000 to complete the project. If you can help with time, money or expertise please contact the treasurer of The MacBean and Bishop Trust, 4 All Saints Crescent, Hastings, TN35 5PD.lifeboatpic2

  • Donations can be sent by cheque to the above address or by BACs to sort code 090128, account 49444310. You can also walk into any branch of the Santander bank and pay over the counter into the trust’s account.


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