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You are in: Tyne > History > Local History > Celebrated lifeboat rescue recreated

The lifeboat being pulled along the Links

The lifeboat was hauled along the Links

Celebrated lifeboat rescue recreated

A famous lifeboat rescue from 1861 was recreated for the new series of BBC Coast.

On 1 January 1861, the whole community of Cullercoats came together to achieve a remarkable rescue effort.

The brig "Lovely Nelly" had come to grief off the coast at Brier Dene, just south of St Mary's Lighthouse.

But in appalling conditions with a blizzard raging the lifeboat could not be launched at Cullercoats.

'The Women' by John Charlton. Tyne & Wear Museums

John Charlton 'The Women', courtesy of T&W Museums

The story goes that the villagers of Cullercoats, many of them women, helped horses to drag the lifeboat more than two miles from the village to Brier Dene.

The lifeboat crew battled heavy seas to row out to the stricken ship and all from the Lovely Nelly were saved except the cabin boy.

North East artist John Charlton depicted the dragging of the lifeboat in his 1910 painting "The Women", which hangs in the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle.

Family links

In August 2008, the event was recreated for the next series of the BBC series Coast.

Volunteers from the area including the present crew of the Cullercoats lifeboat went along to pull a lifeboat along the Links, at Whitley Bay.

Among them was leading helmsman Robert Oliver. His family links with the lifeboat go back six generations and he believes some of his family would have been in the crew for the 1861 rescue.

He said: "All the villagers and the fishermen came to help put the boat in the water. I believe they should have had medals the size of frying pans."

Neil Oliver helps to pull the lifeboat

Neil Oliver put his back into hauling the lifeboat

Robert showed the Coast crew the route that was taken in 1861 and said it was important to show the kinds of rescues lifeboats had been involved with over the years and it would hopefully raise awareness of the work of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution now and the fact that the crews are volunteers.

RNLI area fundraising manager Michael Charlton said the lifeboat was still such a big part of the Cullercoats community and it was fitting that many local people had come out for the recreation.

The lifeboat used was the "William Riley of Birmingham and Leamington", which was recovered after falling into severe disrepair.

She was spotted on e-bay by Dave Charlton and was restored by the Whitby Historic Lifeboat Trust between 2006 and 2008.

Volunteers gathered on the Links at Whitley Bay on Thursday 7 August 2008 to help with the recreation.

Two Shire horses from Thwaites Brewery also took part.

Film crew

Coast presenter Neil Oliver was filmed interviewing some of those involved with the recreation and then it was time for the pull.

Ropes were attached to the trailer with the lifeboat on and the women volunteers took up the strain at the front with the other volunteers behind.

The Cullercoats lifeboat crew

Current crew of the Cullercoats lifeboat took part

The wooden lifeboat weighed two-and-a-quarter tonnes and pulling it over the bumpy grass surface of the Links required real effort.

The camera crew from Coast darted around the action to film the lifeboat being pulled along.

As well as the Cullercoats RNLI crew, among the volunteers were local lifeguards and women from Percy Park Rugby Club.

Mary Dudley from the rugby club said: "It has been good fun. It felt quite a bit harder than we thought it would be."

The new series of Coast is screened in 2009.

last updated: 08/08/2008 at 15:20
created: 08/08/2008

You are in: Tyne > History > Local History > Celebrated lifeboat rescue recreated

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