Take a peek at lifeboat restoration project + SLIDESHOW

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A SHIPYARD which is restoring a tragedy-hit lifeboat will welcome visitors tomorrow for a first glimpse of the revamp, which is almost complete.

Fred Crowell will hold an open day at his base in South Shields, with the George Elmy to be the star attraction.

HATS OFF TO JOB ... heritage trust member Malcolm Cooper, left, and boatbuilder Fred Crowell.

HATS OFF TO JOB ... heritage trust member Malcolm Cooper, left, and boatbuilder Fred Crowell.

The boat was returning to Seaham’s harbour on November 17, 1962, after rescuing the crew of a fishing coble in stormy conditions when it overturned.

The accident claimed the lives of eight men and a nine-year-old boy, with just one man surviving the ordeal.

It was brought back to the North East in 2009 after it was sold on eBay, with members of East Durham Heritage Group helping Fred to work on the vessel at his Wapping Street base ever since.

They hope to sail back to Seaham once its engines have passed a series of tests, with the boat to take up a place in a history centre which has been set up in the town’s North Dock marina.

Fred said: “There is just a little bit of brasswork to do and the final fittings to the engine.

“I hope that anybody who wants to will come down, as it will be the last opportunity to see her in South Shields before she leaves.”

The twin-engine Liverpool Class lifeboat, which was in service from 1950 to 1972 before it went on to be used as a fishing vessel, has been repainted in its original RNLI colours.

A date for its return to Seaham is yet to be announced.

The project was able to press on thanks to a £91,500 fund which was generated through donations and a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Sections of the boat have had to be rebuilt from scratch, with group members Ernie Cooper, Malcolm Cooper and Bill Coates visiting South Shields two days a week to help out with the work.

More details about the project can be seen at www.seahamlifeboats.oneuk.com.

The open day will run from 10am to 4pm, with admission free and refreshments available.

Twitter: @EchoEastDurham