For those unaware of the story, on the afternoon of 17th Nov 1962 the weather in the North Sea off the Northumberland & Durham Coast and Seaham Harbour in particular was absolutely filthy, so bad that 10 miles north at Bartrams Shipyard where I was based most workers had been sent home in the driving rain, wind, and gloom.
I remember hearing of the news as it filtered through to Sunderland
At approximately 4.00 pm the lifeboat George Elmy was called out to an inshore fisherman in trouble. All the crew of the fishing boat were successfully transferred to the lifeboat but whilst making her way back to the harbour the lifeboat capsized and every one of the lifeboat crew and all but one of the fishermen were lost.
The lifeboat ended up washed up on a nearby beach.
What happened to the wreck from that date onwards I don’t know but a few years ago she resurfaced in Southern Ireland I think, and although she was in a bad way she was bought by a local Trust and brought back eventually to the boatyard of Fred Crowell in South Shields on the river Tyne, a location famous for the invention of the concept of a self righting lifeboat and for the formation of a locally funded voluntary lifeboat service in the 1790s which was 30 or 40 years before the national organisation was formed.
Over the last two years or so Fred Crowell and his boatbuilder colleagues have painstakingly researched and restored the George Elmy, where possible finding a source and using or having to recast the wonderful brass fittings and other detail on the boat.
The original target date for completion was the 50th anniversary of the tragedy four months ago but unfortunately that was too optimistic.
Over the restoration and rebuilding Fred has posted a string of very informative progress reports available on the internet for public consumption, (fred and george u tube) but yesterday she was finally completed and put in the water for engine trials on the Tyne before some time shortly making her way to Seaham Harbour to become a major attraction for the town, a tribute to those who lost their lives, and a fitting tribute to Fred and his life’s work.
No doubt the progress reports will continue to be posted on the internet until she is on show at Seaham, but in the mean time I took a few pictures which I thought some of you might like to see.