CRAFTSmen in South Tyneside are well on the way to restoring a tragic part of the North East’s maritime history.
The lifeboat George Elmy is being returned to its original condition as part of a project by the East Durham Heritage Group, which bought it after it was sold on eBay in 2009.
The boat was used by Seaham’s RNLI crew when it was called to rescue the crew of a fishing coble which had got into trouble on Saturday, November 17, 1962.
As it was returning to harbour, it capsized, claiming the lives of eight men and a boy.
The tragedy still lingers in local people’s memories, and a campaign to restore the Liverpool Class boat has topped £91,500, with donations and a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The vessel will go on show inside revamped buildings at Seaham’s North Dock as part of its development into a marina.
A date for the boat’s return is yet to be set, but the group hopes it will be in the spring. Until then, work will continue at Fred Crowell’s yard in South Shields.
Allan Brooks, the project’s treasurer, said: “The cabin is on and we are going to start up the engines shortly, in the next week or two.
“Then we will have some trials along the river, but before that we’ll need to have it inspected to make sure it is seaworthy, and we will get a certificate.
“After that, we’ll bring it back to Seaham and we hope that will be by sea, depending on the conditions.
“It’s been painted. Its name is on and the RNLI logo is on the side. Now it just needs starting up. A lot of it has had to be done from scratch.
“It is emotional to see it now. When we first got it back, it was a queer sensation when we went on board, because we know what happened to it.
“It’s been a long hard slog, but it’s been worth every minute of it.”
Ernie Cooper, Malcolm Cooper and Bill Coates, who are also among the group’s members, have been spending two days a week at the yard helping Fred with the work.
More details about the project can be found at www.seahamlifeboats.oneuk.com