Plea to bring home Sunderland ship as campaign looks to tell story of its lifesaving past

Lightship no 72 as she stands today in Neath, Wales.
Lightship no 72 as she stands today in Neath, Wales.
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A campaign has been launched to bring home a Sunderland ship which helped save the lives of hundreds of seafarers and win a war.

Lightship no 72 was built in Monkwearmouth and launched on March 30, 1903, working to steer ships away from rocks and playing a part in guiding Allied Forces away from mines off the coast of Normandy during the D-Day landings.

She now sits rusting and ruined by the side of the River Neath in Wales after being used as an office by a scrap yard.

The Save Our Ship of Light appeal has been launched to buy the wreckage, known as Juno during her wartime service, and bring her home before restoring her to her original glory.

Anthony Renton, one of the three-strong committee set up so far, hopes she can then be put on display in the dock near to Pann’s Bank under the shadow of the Wearmouth Bridge and just a short distance from where she was built.

The 51-year-old from Hendon discovered it online and has set an initial target of £100,000 and is working on plans to submit grant applications - more than £1,200 has been raised so far.

Lightship no 72 as she stands today in Neath, Wales.

Lightship no 72 as she stands today in Neath, Wales.

Anthony, who has travelled down to inspect the boat, said: “She’s small, manageable and quirky.

“She’s made of iron, not steel, and that’s probably what’s saved her because if she had been steel, she probably would have been scraped, but she still looks water tight.

“She is one the last of the dwindling fleet of ships that took part in the D-Day landings and we feel that she deserves saving and restoration.

“My goal is to raise enough money to acquire her and bring her back to Sunderland so she can be restored to her former glory and displayed on the River Wear for current and future generations to see and visit, a reminder of our proud shipbuilding past.

She is one the last of the dwindling fleet of ships that took part in the D Day landings and we feel that she deserves saving and restoration.

Anthony Renton

“Once we have raised enough funds to buy her, all being well, we plan to have her towed back to Sunderland and bringing in local volunteers and groups wherever possible, start her restoration process.

“I know that there is a great interest in having something tangible as a memorial to all our families who were involved in the industry over hundreds of years.

“When she was used as an office, she was painted yellow, but she should be red and white, her original colours, which is good given she’s from Sunderland.

“We’d love to see it down there next to the mural and the bridge, with the Stadium of Light in the distance.”

Lightship no 72 as she stands today in Neath, Wales.

Lightship no 72 as she stands today in Neath, Wales.

The ship was one of two bought by the scrap yard, but was saved from the crusher because of the pair, she was in better condition.

Anthony, who know lives in Glasgow but references his home city through his cleaning company Wearside Contract Services, is working alongside Sheila Jacqueline Sly and Margaret Harford on the plans.

His history in Sunderland’s maritime past was sparked his father, the late George William, and his brother, who both worked with boats.

More details can be found via the campaign’s Facebook page, Save Our Ship of Light and through its own site, www.saveourshipoflight.wix.com/juno-lightship.

Donations can be made via www.gofundme.com/sosol.

Lightship no 72 as she stands today in Neath, Wales.

Lightship no 72 as she stands today in Neath, Wales.

Anthony Renton, who is heading up the campaign.

Anthony Renton, who is heading up the campaign.

A painting of the ship off the coast of Normandy when she wa called Juno. Image copyright Trinity House.

A painting of the ship off the coast of Normandy when she wa called Juno. Image copyright Trinity House.