Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Potted History of the Fleetwood Coastguard: Part Two

Right…because I messed about so much in the last part of this article, we’ve got a lot to get through in this half, so let’s crack on.
In 1860 Captain Wasey (see last week’s rambling monologue) and Coxswain John Fox were both awarded silver medals for rescuing some bloke (who shall remain nameless…because we don’t know who he was) from the wreck of the Ann Mitchell, which was a schooner. Wasey also received a further two medals for rescuing four men from the schooner Catherine and sixteen from the barque Vermont.
In 1863 silver medals were awarded to Tug Master Swarbrick and Pilot Robert Gerrard, for rescuing seventeen people from…well, you get the idea. This lot were a pretty heroic bunch of lads, but if we keep on like this we’ll be here all day. Instead, how about a photograph of some of those barques and schooners and what have you berthed at Fleetwood dock…when Fleetwood still had a dock.

Impressive, eh? You don’t see owt like that round Fleetwood nowadays. It’d be a bit hard to cram them into the marina, for a start.
Anyhow, in 1887 the coastguard crew gained a second R.N.L.I. boat (and, judging by the number of medals they were receiving, they frankly deserved it) and in 1879 a brand spanking new boathouse complete with slipway was erected (on piles, apparently, though we’re not informed whose) near the Lower Lighthouse.

What? Yes, we know that’s the same lifeboat house that we showed last week. We told you at the time that we didn’t have any pictures of the original. Unfortunately we don’t have any pictures of the boathouse we’ve just mentioned either so, once again, this’ll have to suffice. Just be grateful that we didn’t put up the exact same photograph that we posted last week. At least this one’s shot from a different angle.
In 1892 the hand-towed lifeboat was withdrawn from service, and one year later yet another boathouse was built. Then, in 1901, a slipway was added next to the Lower Light and the railway company, who’d been responsible for the moving of the boathouse in the first place because it was on their land, moved it once again to the aforementioned slipway. All of which, at long last, brings us back to that photograph because, by our reckoning, that’s where the lifeboat house remained for the next umpteen decades.
(Editor’s note: The readers are tuning out rapidly now. Get a move on or you’re sacked!)
Right, hurtling rapidly forwards then, we hit 1933 and the introduction of the station’s first motorised lifeboat.
In 1959 a ‘Centenary Vellum’ (whatever one of them was…don’t ask us, we’re copying this from the official R.N.L.I. website now, presumably it’s some sort of vellum with words on it celebrating one hundred years of the Fleetwood lifeboats or something) was awarded to the station.
In 1966 an inshore lifeboat station was established but in 1977 it was destroyed by gales. A new one, not entirely stronger and meaner but sufficient to last the interim, was added to the end of the mooring pen jetty and a davit launched the inshore lifeboat. (Don’t ask…I don’t know. Go and ask a member of the lifeboat crew what a davit is if you’re that interested.)
In 1980 another new Inshore Lifeboat house was built.
In 1984 the thanks of the R.N.L.I. were inscribed on vellum (I don’t know what they’ve got against deer) and awarded to Second Coxswain Stephen James Musgrave for rescuing a windsurfer. The following year the Ralph Glister Award for the most meritorious service carried out in 1984 was awarded to Helmsman Stephen Musgrave and Crew Members Barrie Farmer and David Owen. In 1987 the thanks of the Institution were once again written on a deer’s stomach and…yes, it goes on. I feel bad about doing this, because these people really are heroes and they all deserve a mention individually, but an editing job is obviously in order before we run out of space completely.

Suffice it to say that, in all, one bronze medal and twelve silver medals have been awarded to our brave boys in yellow, and deservedly so…especially Mechanic Steve Carroll who received the RSPCA Bronze Medal for rescuing a dog in 2005. Many lesser mortals simply wouldn’t have bothered.
Right…is anybody still reading this? Time for another photograph I reckon.

Okay, that’s what the lifeboat station looked like up until recently. Rubbish, isn’t it, considering what an excellent job our seafaring heroes have been doing all these years? Or rather wasn’t it, because now it looks something like this:

That’s a bit more impressive. And for once I’m not going to complain about the redevelopment of our history. Some things are just more important.


Anonymous said...

I like the old shed better. It would make a fantastic setting for (an as yet unmade) a sequel to 'The Sea Devils' with some kind of underground bunker tucked insidiously away (operated, of course, by The Master).

Brian Hughes said...

Too far from Cardiff. The only rift in the space time continuum round these parts is in the fashion shops.

Andrew said...

'a davit launched the inshore lifeboat'
It is inshore lifeboat that has me thinking. I thought most would know what a davit is.

Brian Hughes said...


Hmmm...not sure what happened to the response I made to your comment around suppertime yesterday. It seems to have vanished into the ether somewhere overnight. Pity because, as far as I can remember, it was incredibly insightful. Blogger must be playing up again I suspect.

John said...

It seems you have some rough water you're way, but luckily the rough weather and seas seems to have brought out some brave folk to compensate.

Nice job commemerating those brave souls who risk their lives saving others!

Cheers, JOHN :0)

PS Interestingly, the new lifestation looks similar to those we have here in the states. Good thing, too, being universally similar for easy spotting in an emergency.

Brian Hughes said...


I've been told it's got a better coffee machine than the old one had as well.

Bwca said...

fascinating that boatsheds worldwide are identical ... and mention of Tugboater Swarbrick has sent me on a reverie to Dave Swarbrick who played for Fleetwood Convention or Fairport Mac or summat'

Brian Hughes said...


It's a small world. There's some Canadian bloke who's always playing with Fleetwood Mac too, apparently...reckons he's called Brian Hughes. The nerve of it!

Jayne said...

What's a lifeboat crew and do they come in pastel shades for Spring ?

Brian Hughes said...


It's a bit like when the cockeral crew but at different times of the day.