Search for relatives of former crew who set sail on historic South Shields lifeboat over 100 years ago

Volunteers are searching for relatives of the former crew members who sailed aboard an historic lifeboat to help tell its story.

Tuesday, 26th November 2019, 11:04 am
Updated Tuesday, 26th November 2019, 11:14 am
The Bedford lifeboat on her slipway at the Coble Landing, South Shields, during the late 1880s.

Restoration work on the 133-year-old South Shields lifeboat Bedford began back in April, by the North East Maritime Trust.

Volunteers are hoping to restore the boat to its full operational condition and take it back out on the water for the first time in more than 80 years, before being put on display.

Now the Trust wants to find out about the men who formed her crew.

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The Bedford in her boathouse at the Pilot Jetty, South Shields in 1936, soon after she had been converted to a motor lifeboat, with Coxswain John Whale (right).

They are appealing for anyone with a connection to the former crew members who may have archive material, press cuttings or photographs to come forward and help tell the full story of the Bedford and other local lifeboats.

First launched on January 11, 1887 under the command of Coxswain John Landers Burn the Bedford was manned by men from the long-established pilot families of Ayre, Burn, Bone, Harrison, Marshall, Milburn, Philips, Purvis, Stephenson, Thurlbeck, Tinmouth, Whale, Wright and Young, among others.

During her 51 years as a lifeboat, she launched on 52 occasions and saved 49 lives up until her final launch on November 17, 1937 with Coxswain John Whale at the helm.

Jerry Dudman, chairman of the North East Maritime Trust said: ‘The restoration of South Shields last lifeboat is a tribute to the many Shields Pilots who manned her and to find out about these brave men would tell the full story of this historic local lifeboat. When the restoration is completed, it would be fitting for the relatives of former crew to see the Bedford as she would have been when an operational lifeboat and we are keen to hear from as many families as we can.

“To hear the stories of the crew who were aboard the lifeboat when she launched on service would provide a unique insight into the conditions the crew had to endure when rowing through the cold and rough seas in a winter’s gale off Shields harbour’.”

Anyone with information about the men who crewed the Bedford or any other lifeboats of the Tyne Lifeboat Institution can contact the Trust on 0191 447 8814 or by emailing: [email protected]