Historic lifeboat launched in South Shields after 14-year restoration project by volunteers

A historic lifeboat has sent sail on the Tyne for the first time following a 14-year major restoration project by a team of dedicated volunteers.

By Poppy Kennedy
Saturday, 20 April, 2019, 18:51

More than 100 people gathered at the North East Maritime Trust (NEMT) on Saturday to watch the 101-year-old Henry Frederick Swan take to the water once again.

Now thanks to the hard work of the members of the trust, in South Shields, the lifeboat - which saw 30 years of service - has been restored to her former glory.

More than 100 people turned out to see the launch

Jerry Dudman, chairman of the trust said: “It’s a fantastic combination of really 14 years work, off and on, all by volunteers - none of us are professional boat builders.

“We’ve taught ourselves the techniques required to build this boat from pretty much a hull with a lot of rot in it. We’ve replaced a lot of timber work - which is mahogany and oak and is tricky to work with - we’ve replaced the old brass fittings, masts and sails, engine all completely refurbished and restored.

“It’s a real achievement. I’m really proud, and more so of the volunteers they’re really chuffed with it.”

“Over the years around 50 to 60 volunteers have worked on the boat. Sadly some of them aren’t here with us anymore.

Henry Frederick Swan out on the water again

“People come and people go - very few have worked on the boat all those 14 years.”

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

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.

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

“It’s just a brilliant day,” added Jerry.

A historic day in South Shields

“We didn’t really know how many people would turn up but there must be well over 100 people here.

“It just shows what this boat means to people locally. It’s a real important piece of history.”

The crowds gathered in the sunshine at the NEMT workshop, in Wapping Street, to witness the historic moment as the 101-year-old boat set sail.

The restored lifeboat was accompanied by the Tynemouth all-weather lifeboat, Spirit of Northumberland, and inshore lifeboat, Little Susie.

All the work was carried out by NEMT volunteers, with the exception of new masts, rigging, sails and rope fenders, sourced from specialist manufacturers.