Historic lifeboat to be relaunched on Tyne after 14-year South Shields restoration project

North East Maritime Trust chair Jerry Dudman with the finished Henry Frederick Swan Tynemouth Lifeboat
North East Maritime Trust chair Jerry Dudman with the finished Henry Frederick Swan Tynemouth Lifeboat

A historic lifeboat is gearing up to set sail on the Tyne following a 14-year restoration project by volunteers.

The 101-year-old Henry Frederick Swan is the former Tynemouth motor, sail and oar lifeboat and saw 30 years of service off the north east coast.

Jerry gives the boat a final polish.

Jerry gives the boat a final polish.

Now thanks to the hard work and skills of the members of North East Maritime Trust (NEMT) in South Shields, the lifeboat has been restored to her former glory.

Trust members and invited guests, including relatives of former coxswains and crew who served on the Henry Frederick Swan, will gather at NEMT’s workshop in Wapping Street on Saturday, April 20, from 3pm to see the boat eased back into the Tyne.

She will be accompanied by the Tynemouth all-weather lifeboat, Spirit of Northumberland, and inshore lifeboat, Little Susie, operational requirements permitting.

Jerry Dudman, Trust chairman, said: “This is the culmination of 14 year’s hard work by our dedicated volunteers in restoring one of the few remaining early motor lifeboats, built for the RNLI during the First World War.

“The lifeboat spent all of her operational life across the river at Tynemouth and, as well as the restoration, her history has been researched and relatives of former coxswains and crew traced.

“The completed project allows her story to be told and brings back to life this unique and historic lifeboat – a testament to the bravery of the crews who manned her.”

The Rev Phillip Bullock will perform a blessing of the boat at the quayside as she is re-floated while the People’s Mission band will provide music for the celebration.

The Henry Frederick Swan was the first restoration project undertaken by Trust when it was established in 2005 to keep alive traditional wooden boat building and repair skills.

With no original equipment and fittings remaining, the boat was completely stripped down Rotten timbers, hull planks and decking, and rusting metal work were either repaired or replaced. A new engine and an electrical system were fitted to comply with modern marine safety requirements.

The lifeboat has been restored to her 1918 livery, using the original builder’s plans of the RNLI.

All the work was carried out by NEMT volunteers, with the exception of new masts, rigging, sails and rope fenders, sourced from specialist manufacturers. To watch the launch call the Trust on 447 8814.