‘Brook’s notable storm warrior,’ was what the Isle of Wight County Press called John Hayter. Over his 32 years as the first coxswain of the Brooke boat, John Hayter became the most decorated lifeboatman in the Island’s history. He was awarded four silver good service medals by the RNLI and the German Emperor gave him a gold watch in gratitude after the rescue of the Eider.

He lived with his wife Emily at Brook Villa, next to the Seely Hall.  Stories that survive about John Hayter, including the account of his tussle with the customs officer (see Smuggling and the Coastguards), show him as a tough, wise and unsentimental man. We also hear that in his younger days he ‘did time’ for smuggling.

One story describes how John Hayter was working hard in the fields up at Dunsbury when a ship could be seen heading for trouble in Brook Bay. Hayter continued with his labours, and when asked by an exasperated person why he wasn’t rushing to the shore to ready the boat he calmly, and famously, replied, ‘She ain’t hit yet...’

Jack Seely remembers meeting the man he called ‘old Hayter’:

To me, and to all the lads in our villages of Brooke and Mottistone, he was the hero, and rightly so.  Had he not commanded the successful launching of the lifeboat from a carriage pushed into the sea, in the teeth of a great gale? Had he not brought his tiny vessel alongside the wreck and rescued nearly all the crew before the vessel broke up into little fragments under the violent blows of the thirty-foot waves, driven forward by the wind of gale force?  Yes, we admired him and loved him, but always from a distance, because while he would rejoice in talking to us about fishing or gardening, or even the art of catching a hare by the hand, he would never allow us to question him on his outstanding services as a saver of lives.

Paths of Happiness, J E B Seely