VOLUNTEER lifesavers who work from the oldest operational boathouse in the UK have taken possession of a brand new rescue vessel.
The £180,000 inshore lifeboat was delivered this week to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution station at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Northumberland, which dates back to 1851.
The Atlantic 85 vessel – the 13th lifeboat to be stationed in the coastal town over 160 years – was built at Cowes on the Isle of Wight and went straight into service after arriving at its new home on Wednesday.
It has been named the Richard Wake Burdon, and replaces Newbiggin’s Atlantic 75 lifeboat, CSMA 75th Anniversary, which has operated from the Church Point station since 1998.
The new 18.3-metre-long boat has been paid for from a large legacy left to the RNLI in his will by Wallsend man Hylton Burdon, which also provided a new £125,000 Atlantic 85 class lifeboat for the Cullercoats station in 2007.
Mr Burdon, who died in 2002, bequeathed the money to fund two lifeboats for the North East in memory of his brother Richard, who lost his life at sea in the 1940s while in the Royal Navy.
Yesterday Newbiggin RNLI station mechanic, Richard Martin, said: “Our new vessel has been named Richard Wake Burdon in memory of Hylton’s brother. Legacies like this are extremely important to our charity, and without them RNLI crews simply wouldn’t be able to carry on saving lives. We are so grateful to Mr Burdon for his generosity, and will remember both him and his brother each time we launch on a rescue mission.”
Newbiggin lifeboat operations manager, Les Fayers, said: “The CSMA 75th Anniversary has served us extremely well for more than 14 years, but we are looking forward to having the additional capability that the updated Atlantic 85 brings.
“The crew have already put her through her paces and have been impressed with the extra speed and new kit, like radar, which will help them carry out their role more safely and effectively than ever before.”
The Atlantic 85 class is the first RNLI inshore lifeboat to have radar, which means it can operate more effectively in reduced visibility. It is also faster and bigger than its predecessor, with room for a fourth crew member as well as more space for casualties.
Mr Martin said: “This type of lifeboat has operated around the UK coast since 2005. It will be a valuable asset to the continuing lifesaving work at Newbiggin, as well as providing a vital link in sea rescue coverage on the North East coast.”
Work started on building the lifeboat house at Newbiggin in October 1851, seven months after 10 local fishermen drowned when a huge storm blew up as their boats made their way back to shore.
The death toll would have been even worse had it not been for the heroic efforts of five local fishermen, who put to sea in a small fishing coble and saved the lives of several members of the overwhelmed fleet.
The tragedy resulted in the Duke of Northumberland – the president of the RNLI – paying for a lifeboat house and purpose-built lifeboat for the proud fishing community.