Seahouses RNLI Lifeboat Station, Seafield Road, Seahouses, Northumberland NE68 7SH. Tel: 01665 720370
Seahouses RNLI Lifeboat Station
The Tom Dawson Bronze Medal Rescue
On the afternoon of July 12th, 1959, the Honorary Secretary of North Sunderland Lifeboat, Mr Tom Swallow, was informed that a man in a canoe had been seen very close in under the cliffs on the western side of the Inner Farne Island. There was a strong WSW wind, with heavy ground swell near the island. The Liverpool Class lifeboat "Grace Darling" was launched at 3.30pm. On reaching the island, about 1.5 miles offshore, the man was seen clinging to the 70ft sheer cliff face, his canoe having capsized. He was hanging on to a cliff ledge about 12ft up. The waves were breaking heavily against the man's face. It was impossible to get a rope to this man, who was grasping the rocks too tightly, affected by cold and fear. Non of the lifeboat could swim, so Coxswain Tom Dawson placed the boat under command of 2nd Coxswain Jimmy Walker, and with the lifeboat anchored and veering down to within 60ft of the cliff, tied a rope to himself and entered the water. He paddled himself through the surf to the cliff, where he pulled himself up to the casualty's position. He climbed to the ledge, giving the canoeist a spare life jacket he had taken with him. Then with great effort, he brought the man down back into the water, where the two were hauled back to the lifeboat. They returned to Seahouses at 4.45pm, cold, wet, and bruised but otherwise well. For this outstanding bravery, Coxswain Dawson (now deceased) was awarded the RNLI Bronze Medal for Gallantry.
It is interesting to note that although Coxswain Dawson sadly passed away several years ago, his rescued canoeist, whose has a family Diving Shop business in Newcastle, still visited Seahouses where he has a holiday home. He often enjoyed a quite drink with his wife in the Olde Ship Hotel, overlooking the Harbour, and a chat with members of today's Lifeboat Crew, where occasionally that awesome day was remembered. Sadly he too has very recently passed away after a long illness.
Vellum Award to Helmsman Steven Priestley (now deceased).
At 4.09pm on Saturday 18th May, 1996, The Honorary Secretary of North Sunderland Lifeboat, Captain George Alston, was telephoned by a member of the public, reporting a surfer in difficulties 500 yards north of Seahouses Harbour. Being close to Captain Alston's home, he immediately checked and saw the casualty about 150 yards offshore, who was thrashing about in the water and was obviously in serious difficulties. Capt. Alston hurried to the Boathouse and activated the Call Out Pagers, and advised the Coastguard of the incident. Minutes later the Seahouses Inshore Lifeboat launched under the command of Helmsman Steven Priestley, accompanied by crewman Darren Shell. As soon as the ILB cleared the harbour, it encountered 10 - 12ft swells. On reaching the surfer's reported position, he was eventually spotted well inside the 200 yard surf line, together with a second surfer. The shore at this point was rocky, with no safe beach to land on. As the ILB approached the surfer, a large wave began to catch up with the stern of the lifeboat, and appeared about to break. With great skill, Helmsman Priestley swung the ILB to port running along the wave for 40 yards to a point where it had not yet broken, then turned again to port and ran back out to sea. Waiting for a suitable break in the seas, Helmsman Priestley again ran inshore, and this time Crewman Shell grabbed the struggling surfer, pulling him into the boat, while Helmsman Priestley remained at the helm, watching the waves carefully. The second surfer indicated that he was well and needed no assistance. Crewman Shell had to calm the rescued man, as well as using his weight to keep the boat bow down. Once back in harbour, the surfer was taken back to the Lifeboat Station, and given a warm drink to help him recover from his ordeal.
For his excellent seamanship and great courage Helmsman Steven Priestley was awarded the RNLI's Thanks on Vellum, with a Vellum Service Certificate being awarded to Crewman Darren Shell who had also shown great courage and determination during this short, but excellent service. The awards were presented by the Duke of Northumberland at a simple ceremony at the Station.