A LIFEBOAT is getting set to sail to its home harbour following four years of restoration work.
The George Elmy was bought by history enthusiasts after it was spotted for sale on eBay and has been at the centre of a £91,500 project led by East Durham Heritage Group.
The boat had been heading back to port on Saturday, November 17, 1962, after rescuing the crew of a fishing coble when it capsized, leading to the loss of eight men and a boy.
The group has returned it to its original state as a Liverpool Class lifeboat and have completed a series of trial journeys along the Tyne after it was fitted out at Fred Crowell’s South Shields yard.
It is now berthed at the Royal Quays in North Shields as the final preparations are made for its home voyage.
Weather permitting, the group plan to make the three-hour journey to Seaham on Sunday, June 23, and aim to arrive between noon and 1pm.
If the weather is unsuitable on that day – chosen because it is close to the anniversary of the boat’s naming ceremony on June 26 63 years ago – Sunday, June 30, is pencilled in as an alternative date.
As the boat enters between the piers, the boat will halt and the crew will lay a wreath in the water in memory of the lives lost in the disaster.
Once in the marina, a re-naming ceremony will be held close to where the first was originally staged.
Geordie Maitland, chairman of the group, said: “This is the culmination of our work and we will finish the journey it never did on that day.
“It’s been very enjoyable to do, it’s been fantastic, and the boat handles well.
“On the river trials we’ve taken it up to Newcastle, which is maybe five or six miles, and then back round Tynemouth Lifeboat Station, and it was excellent.
“One of the most difficult things has been finding the original parts and we’ve used those wherever we could and we still have some odds and ends to put on.
“We’ve been all across the country for parts. Sky twice, Cornwall, Dover, Wales.
“It’s a big relief now its done and it’s a very proud moment as well.”
Brian Scollen, a member of the group, added: “To think now how it’s taken us four years.
“It was a very daunting prospect and we had to raise something in the region of £94,000.
“The problem was, and still is, we’re not professionals, we’re enthusiastic amateurs.”
The homecoming celebrations will feature Beamish Museum, with its staff to dress in 1950s costume and stage traditional seaside games, and a performance by Murton Brass Band.
The group has suggested good vantage points for seeing the boat’s progress include Seaham Hall and Vane Tempest car parks, along North Road and North Terrace and the Slope Beach.
The George Elmy will go on show within in the East Durham Heritage and Lifeboat Centre, which has been created using part of the original boathouse in a project supported by Durham County Council, and will welcome visitors from 10am to 3pm Thursday to Sunday.
Money to fund the refit was gifted to the fund by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Durham County Councillor Mac Williams, The Sir James Knott Trust, The Barbour Trust, the County Durham Foundation and the Timestep dance group, along with a host of other donations from groups and individuals.
The kitting out of the centre has been backed by East Durham Area Action Partnership.