Members of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade are preparing to mark an important event in its history tomorrow – re-enacting the first-ever breeches buoy rescue.
Brigade volunteers will stage a reconstruction of the event – in 1866 – when their predecessors carried out the world’s first rescue of its kind to save lives, including a mother and baby’s from a shipwreck.
The re-enactment, which takes place at South Pier from 11am, is part of a series of events to celebrate its 150th anniversary
A breeches buoy rescue involves firing a rescue line to a stricken vessel by rocket and setting up a pulley system to save the crew.
Thanks to the North East Maritime Trust, the restored seine net fishing boat Rachel Douglas will be acting as the wreck of the schooner Tenterden in the harbour near to the Watch House.
Spectators will be able to watch as volunteers rescue the crew of the Tenterden - 150 years to the day it met its fate. The event follows earlier re-enactments of the first drill held by the brigade in February 1866 and the public meeting, which led to its establishment on January 15, 1866.
This is a one-off opportunity for people to actually see the breeches buoy being usedTom Fennelly, honorary secretary, South Shields Volunteer Life Bridgade
Life Brigade honorary secretary Tom Fennelly said: “The re-enactment is one of the highlights in the programme of Always Ready events taking place throughout 2016 to celebrate the history of the establishment of the brigade.
“We have been training with our colleagues from Tynemouth and Sunderland Volunteer Life Brigades, which also highlights the fact that we represent the last three remaining brigades in the country.
“This is a one-off opportunity for people to actually see the breeches buoy being used.”
He added: “The Brigade was the first such organisation in the world to use to the breeches buoy equipment to save life from shipwreck, after only three practice drills.”
The weekend also sees a special 150th anniversary dinner in the Littlehaven Hotel on Saturday evening, with an audience of invited guests.
A public service of thanksgiving will take place in St. Hilda’s Church at 6pm tomorrow, led by Rev Chris Fuller, and the Bishop of Jarrow, the Right Rev Mark Bryant.
The Mayor and Mayoress of South Tyneside, Councillor Richard Porthouse and his wife Patricia Porthouse will also attend.
Visit www.ssvlb.org.uk for more information.