Meet The Coxswain - a sea hero brother to the Tommy statue crafted in tribute to the RNLI.
Hundreds attended the unveiling of the striking public art work, which has been made to honour the sacrifices made by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution crew and staff who worked at the Seaham Harbour station between its opening in 1870 and its closure in 1979.
Sculpted by Tommy creator Ray Lonsdale, in his South Hetton studio, the life-size statue depicts a skipper of a lifeboat battling the waves at sea during a rescue and stands in the shadow of the lifeboat centre.
The statue was commissioned by the town’s East Durham Heritage Group and Lifeboat Centre who spent months raising the £24,000 needed to fund the piece.
It’s hoped the statue will inspire people in much the same way as world-famous WW1 soldier Tommy, who stands in Seaham’s Terrace Green, has done.
Ray said: “There’s a difference in scale to Tommy but I hope this statue attracts people to come down here and learn more about the work of the RNLI.
“It was down to me to come up with the pose, but I wanted it to have some movement. So the plinth is the deck of boat and he’s battling the waves.
“The Heritage Group really deserve the praise for coming up with the idea and raising the funds.”
George Maitland, chairman of East Durham Heritage Group, said: “We are over the moon with the amount of people who have come along to the unveiling. We had an idea of what we wanted and we put it to Ray who came back with some sketches. We wanted to leave it with him. The first idea he came back with was perfect and we are delighted with the result.
“We have a set of old clothes including an oilskin coat and life jacket from the 1950s which would have been worn by a Coxswain, so Ray was able to look at those when he made the sculpture. It took around eighteen months to raise the funds and get planning permission so it’s great to finally see him in place.”
The Coxswain complements other projects run by the history enthusiasts, who are based at Seaham Harbour Marina, including the George Elmy lifeboat, which was restored to its original glory thanks to a community campaign.