MOTL and the RNLI

In 1994 our old chum Keith Harris (no, that that one) came along to a gig at the Cape Of Good Hope in Warwick, and thrust a book into Al's hand. The book was The Mary Stanford Disaster: The Story of a Lifeboat by Geoff Hutchinson. Keith explained that he knew the author, and after reading the book it had occurred to Keith that few people outside the Rye area of East Sussex had heard the tragic story of the Mary Stanford, and that it was possibly a folk song waiting to be written.

Al read the book and, as soon as he had mopped up the tears, set to work. A few days later he called round to Ron with the first draft of the song. Ron's initial reaction was, 'Cheers mate, how the bloody hell am I going to learn thirteen verses?' Cutting a long story short, MOTL recorded the song for the Portugese Handshake album, and turned it loose on the unsuspecting public. The song immediately provoked a reaction, and the band knew they were on to a winner.

The song started generating a bit of interest in Sussex where people knew the story, and we received an invite to play at The Black Horse Festival in Telham, near Battle. The response in that part of the world - especially at the CD stall - was staggering. Meridian Television came to the festival to interview the band, and we all took the opportunity to visit the church where the crew are buried, and also the old lifeboat house, which hasn't been used to home a lifeboat since the day Mary Stanford was lost. We even received an invitation to play the song in Rye Harbour church at the annual memorial service, which is still held on the nearest Sunday to November 16th. We got to talk to relatives, descendants and people whose lives the disaster touched directly.

At this point a thought occurred to the band. Seventeen men had given their lives on November 15th 1928, the village of Rye Harbour had been decimated and still bore the scars seventy years later, lifeboat crews continued to put their lives on the line daily. ('You have to go - you don't have to come back,' as one lifeboat man put it) and yet here we were doing a few gigs, selling a few CDs and raising the band's profile on the back of someone else's tragedy. It was time to act.

We began by seeking out an RNLI collection box, and as luck would have it Ron had a canal boating mate called Brian Ralph who was a senior member of the Sandwell RNLI and an active fund raiser. Brian found us a collection box and we started passing it around during the gigs. We were amazed at the response; a few pound coins grew into several pounds, and dozens of pounds became hundreds, at which point Brian suggested we channel our donations into a single project. Brian was overseeing raising the finance to build a new lifeboat for Aberdovey; a massive project which MOTL's donations would make up a small but well-received part.

Cutting another long story short, Aberdovey got their new lifeboat - an Atlantic 75 called Sandwell Lifeline - and Meet On The Ledge received a very nice certificate and were awarded the honour of being Silver Patrons of the project in acknowledgement of the audience's kind donations.

Very occasionally we receive royalties for our songs, generated from radio airplay, public performance, and that sort of thing. We still donate every penny received in respect of the Mary Stanford song, and will continue to do so for as long as people want to listen to it. We are very, very proud to be associated with this unique charity, and their recognition of our audiences' generosity humbles us more than we can express.

Aberdovey RNLI Crew with Sandwell Lifeline


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