Sunderland RNLI’s proud history of saving lives is celebrated

MILESTONE: Lifeboat operations manager James Jameson cuts the birthday cake to mark Sunderland station's 150th anniversary.
MILESTONE: Lifeboat operations manager James Jameson cuts the birthday cake to mark Sunderland station's 150th anniversary.
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ANNIVERSARY celebrations have been held to mark the naming of the first Royal National Lifeboat Institution rescue vessel to be stationed at Sunderland.

It is the charity’s oldest operational station, having been in existence since 1800.

BEGINNINGS: The presentation of the Florence Nightingale Lifeboat to the RNLI in front of the Stationers' Hall in Derby. Credited to E.N. Charles & W.W. Winter.

BEGINNINGS: The presentation of the Florence Nightingale Lifeboat to the RNLI in front of the Stationers' Hall in Derby. Credited to E.N. Charles & W.W. Winter.

In 1864 both of its lifeboats were becoming unfit for service and in need of replacement, so the Sunderland Seamen’s Association approached the RNLI with a view to the Institution taking over the running of the lifeboat stations.

That December, the RNLI’s Inspector of Lifeboats, Captain Ward, visited Sunderland and recommended that the charity should take over the running of the lifeboat stations and replace the two existing lifeboats with a new one.

The next April, a 33ft, 10-oared vessel costing £150 was sent north from London to Sunderland by rail.

The money was raised by the Mayor of Derby, Thomas Roe, with the help of William Peat and several others.

All the current volunteers are extremely proud to be attached to the legacy of Florence Nightingale, who saved many lives over the years, both directly and indirectly from the work she did within nursing.

Paul Nicholson, Sunderland RNLI

While in Derby, the lifeboat was formally named Florence Nightingale, who was a native of Derbyshire, by Miss Wilmot of Chaddesden Hall, Derby.

On arrival at Sunderland, it was placed in a boathouse near the South Pier, close to the main entrance to the harbour.

Ralph Thompson was appointed as coxswain, while Captain T Heard, who had served as Honorary Secretary at Whitburn lifeboat station since 1862, took on the extra role of Honorary Secretary at Sunderland station, with both stations managed by the Sunderland Lifeboat Committee.

Paul Nicholson, helmsman at Sunderland RNLI, said: “This marks another milestone in our station’s wonderful history.

“All the current volunteers are extremely proud to be attached to the legacy of Florence Nightingale, who saved many lives over the years, both directly and indirectly from the work she did within nursing.”