Our Lifeboat days have always been a great success, there were no showers and the sun shone for the days' display. As well as the traditional events and an air display the crew hosted smaller events such as a Treasure Hunt and Tug of War. The pretty girl in her summer cotton print dress carries her collection box in the summer sun, Angela smiles to the passers by from all walks of life who place coins and the occasional rolled up banknote into her box. Her job seems totally unconnected from the operational side of the Filey Lifeboat, but in common with the Ladies Lifeboat Guild and a host of other volunteers who run the Tombolas, raffles, events and stalls at all times of the year, she provides the lifeblood funding to ensure a twenty four hour, all weather maritime search and rescue service for up fifty miles from the shore in one of the most treacherous waters in the world, the North Sea.
In 2004 the Filey Lifeboat Station celebrated 100 years of lifesaving at Filey. formed in 1804, the Station is older than the RNLI itself and more information is to be found on Barry's site www.fileylifeboat.com .
Visit the Services Page and read about some of the Inshore Lifeboat's brilliant rescues.
The current Filey Lifeboat "Keep Fit Association" at sea on exercise. (Photo by courtesy of Graham Taylor.)
Portrait of a Coxswain - Malcolm Johnson
He followed his sea career as a fisherman in a Filey Coble and thence to a trawler at Scarborough for some time whilst still remaining a crew member of the Filey Station. He progressed to being a crewman of the Filey Lifeboat, during which time he was awarded a Vellum from the Institution for bravery and a Certificate from the Royal Humane Society following a Service to a maritime disaster at Flamborough on 7th May 1974 and recently a letter of Commendation for his superb action in the Araxian rescue. Malcolm eventually took over as Coxswain of the Filey Lifeboat, the "Keep Fit Association" upon the retirement of Graham Taylor in April 1998, a post that he held until April of this year when the Post was taken over by Barry Robson. Malcolm is known as a tough no nonsense Coxswain and has both his sons as crewmen in the Filey boat. Malcolm has served in two Lifeboats during his career:
The Mersey Class Keep Fit Association
Portrait of a Coxswain - Graham Taylor
Graham is the former Coxswain of the Filey Lifeboat and retired on April 1998, having completed over thirty five years at Filey. He first joined the Lifeboat Service as a volunteer in 1963 and joined the RNLI full time in September 1974 as Station Mechanic following on to Second Coxswain from 1981 until 1988 and as Coxswain from 1988 until 1998.
Graham was a full time fisherman in Filey cobles from 1960 until 1974 and fished in the Scarborough keel boat MARY JOY during the summer of 1964. The Filey fishermen operate from open boats that are launched from the beach and are recovered, sometimes in atrocious weather conditions. The Filey men have been well known through the ages for their expertise and experience in boat handling and seamanship and Graham is no exception. The RNLI are continually updating their boats and equipment and when the "D" Class Inshore Lifeboats were first introduced, Graham's vast experience was invaluable when the Filey Station received its first ILB. It was he who laid the foundations of the fast response all weather crews at Filey and forged them into the fast and efficient Team that they are today.
Graham was awarded the MBE in the New Years Honours List of 1998 and was presented with his medal by the Queen in March 1998.
Graham has served in three Lifeboats during his lifesaving career:
The Oakley Class Robert & Dorothy Hardcastle
he Mersey Class Keep Fit Association
A Past Service
Now follows an excerpt of a past Lifeboat crewman's journal in which he details a Service in the Filey Lifeboat "Robert & Dorothy Hardcastle", a 37 foot Oakley class Lifeboat number 3704, in 1974. The crewman is anonymous and the Service is not unusual but it illustrates the bread and butter type of Services that all Lifeboat crews undertake during their working lives.
What is of interest to those who remember these times at Filey are the characters who sadly no longer here amongst us, like Coastguard Harry Gaze, the ex Special Forces sailor who helped to clear the beaches prior to the Allied landings and had the bullet holes in his back to prove it, Bob McKernan of expansive character and former Spitfire pilot who as well as being a member of the Filey Branch Committee was an active crew member and Bob Appleby, the jovial Lifeboat Mechanic with a wealth of stories and experience, who had spent years in the Lifeboat Institution, including a long spell with the full time Lifeboat crew at Spurn point. The older crew members, who were usually from fishing families, over the years had endured the lean times in fishing, served in the Navy in the war years and stoically resisted all that the forces that nature and the tribulations of life had thrown at them. It was these men who answered the call of the maroons at the dead of night and left their families without a second thought to their own safety. These men shunned the Press and any recognition for their services but united together in the common cause of saving their fellow man. It was Coxswain Henry Blogg of Cromer who said "We have to go, but we don't have to come back".
Amongst the crew there was also a Methodist Lay Preacher, Bob Hunter (Signalman) and as is the case today, a member of the Filey Fisherman's Choir and when the Boat is launched we think of the first words of a fisherman's Hymn that is so often sung by the Choir: "Jesus, at thy command I launch into the deep"......enjoy the story.
The "Robert & Dorothy Hardcastle" returns from Service in heavy weather.
Wednesday 16th January 1974
The sea, borne of a cold Southerly gale and lashed by a bitter rain streamed white tops and spent its force on the deserted beach. It was heard on the grapevine that two Cobles were off, "Flinney" Johnson and "Jowsey". The forecast was for a Southeast gale force eight to storm force ten and the wind was to go round to the Northeast, a bad forecast and time for action.
I went to the storm lashed Coastguard lookout and found Hubert, the tractor driver (who pulled the Cobles up) and Coastguard John in conference. The Coastguard was to wait until 09:00 before deciding to launch. Coastguard Harry Gaze appeared and promptly donated a Sou'wester to the bad weather prospective Lifeboat Crew's cause and with usual quick perceptive manner, gave informed observations concerning the state of affairs. The Sou'wester promptly disappeared into my jacket.
The Coxswain, Tom "Eamon" Jenkinson arrived at 08:45 with Station Officer Tom Taylor and with an expressionless face and seemingly disinterested manner listened to words of wisdom before directing John in his abrupt manner to tell the "Hon. Sec." That he was launching.
We stepped outside of the warm secure building into the tearing wind and went to the boathouse. Inside, warm oilskins and boots were donned and the Lifeboat that stood on its carriage in the dark was prepared for the launch. "It would help if someone opened the doors" quipped the Coxswain and in due course they scraped open wide to let in the grey morning light and tearing wind.
The mighty tractor was hooked up to the carriage and as the boat was pulled onto the Coble landing and the masts were raised, "Flinney" was seen in the broken water trying his best to land. He had raised his rudder and the man in the bows with the long handled prod tried desperately to keep his boat's head to the sea as the savage broken water tried to broach the boat and capsize it. In the tradition of the finest small boat handlers in the world, the boat was brought in stern first to where it was floated onto the carriage wheels and safely recovered.
By this time we were pushing into the sea and waiting for the orders to "Knock Out" once there was enough water to float the Lifeboat and with the twin Perkins diesels hammering away the Coxswain barked out the order "Knock Out for'rd", and mittened hands let the heavy hammers fall with force onto the paint chipped securing stops. A metallic thud and they slid overboard and disappeared into the grey water. "Knock Out aft" and the procedure was repeated, the tractor headed for shore and tripped the carriage at the same time, tilting the boat's head into the on coming seas. The engines were revved, put into gear, propellers bit and we were committed to the launch.
Those on deck were rewarded with a douching of icy spray and lashing rain which poured from the leaden sky. Rex Harrison and myself found the meagre shelter of the forward Canopy welcome as the Lifeboat bucked and ploughed its sturdy shape through the sea.
Behind us under the edge of the Canopy the shoreline was presented to us at all angles as it steadily receded into the rain. We found hand holes and boot grips as we forced our bodies into convenient positions as the boat threw spray over it's bow and water was forced up the draining grates in the deck into the air. Facing us through the streaming windows the others could be seen, the Coxswain, commanded the only pane sporting windscreen wipers, the other not being working. On odd occasions a look over the bow into the teeth of the wind was attempted, the wind was now blowing a good force seven to eight but little could be seen because of the driving rain and spray. We stood there on occasions looking like a couple of submarine Commanders and retired gratefully whenever a large lump looked like coming aboard and the port hand boat hook had to be re-secured from time to time. The engine's racing became less noticeable and the crew, all with different attitudes were united and bonded together by the common objective.
We sighted the double ended Coble "Triumph" off Reighton and just on the inside of us. The radio under the main Canopy hummed and crackled as the information was passed over and the metallic voice of the Coastguard occasionally reached our ears. The "Triumph" still burned its shooting lights and it was running before the sea in quite a pleasant manner. We took up position astern of him and the engines were eased in making life more comfortable for all. We left the forward Canopy and poached hot Bovril from someone's flask and took things easy.
When approaching the shore the "Triumph" was signalled to ease down and storm oil was distributed on the surface of the sea from a Jerry can by Bob Appleby and from the engine reservoir by myself in an attempt to quell the breaking seas. Graham Taylor (to be Coxswain in the future) watched the radios and the rest of the crew watched Triumph. We ran in and turned broadside to the sea, still distributing oil and suddenly a cry of "hang on" warned us of an impending beam sea. A lump of sea charged through from one side of the Lifeboat to the other, disappearing over the rail and swilling over the Canopy deck. Two enamelled mugs clattered about and the flask of Bovril assumed a horizontal position. The drainers in the deck took the water immediately, the cups were stowed hurriedly and the flask was wedged behind a gallon tin of Brasso.
All eyes were on their jobs and I found a more secure perch, wedged between the engine room door and the binnacle/steering post. Another cry, another sea and a repeat performance as oily water poured aboard sending the cups flying again, removing the starboard fire extinguisher on the bulkhead and causing the remark " get those ****** cups stowed" from the Coxswain to be taken more seriously as they gave the impression of serious damage being sustained. The wheel was put over and the Lifeboat, refusing to be outclassed by the sea, answered obediently.
By this time the "Triumph" was ashore and the motley collection of figures at the Cliff Top melted away. While all this was happening there had been the usual evaluation, suggestions and orders in the cockpit as the others came to grips with the changing situations. By now it was our turn to land so with oil being pumped all the way, we beached. The sea then tried to force us broadside on to the land but before long the tractor had hooked on and was pulling us clear of the sea on to the "skeets" or skids that had been laid by the "skeeters".
Some time later when the Lifeboat was on the carriage it was noticed that the rain had stopped and the wind was easing. On land the crew relaxed, the Coxwain's brother Frank "Eamon" with his long thin face hiding a quick and capable mind wore a grey beret that sat squarely on his head and gave him the look of a sorrowful Van Gogh. Rex Harrison, his round face protruding beneath a sodden leather and fur hat stood like a shipwrecked airman and Barry "Eamon" wearing a lifejacket with "Bob Hunter Signalman" printed on it in ball point pen, looked like a drowned rat. Bob Appleby the full time Lifeboat Mechanic never looked any different, cupping a damp cigarette in his hands against the icy rain. Behind him the cold, unrelenting North Sea roared and spent it's anger on the shore in long tearing white walls of water.
Bob Mc Kernan, the Deputy Honorary Secretary and launching authority; in true form had brought a half bottle of rum to put in the tea for the lads and stood on the forbidding sands wearing only an oilskin top "because he didn't have time to put anything else on" (he said). The Coxswain supervising the balancing of the Lifeboat on the rollers and pivot block also ran true to form by allowing the keel to graze that sand at the forward end, much to the amusement of all and in the boathouse the oil on the decks was washed away with hot soapy water.
The gales took their toll that day, amongst the casualties was a timber boat "Providence" lost in the Channel with all hands and on the 18th it was learned that a German cargo boat and the Trawler "Boston Comet" were overdue, however, the "Comet" turned up later on.
Story © 1974