Permanent reminder to Sunderland hero Stormy Petrel unveiled in his home city
A permanent reminder to one of Sunderland's greatest heroes has been unveiled in his home city.
Joseph Hodgson, who saved dozens of people from drowning in the North Sea in the 1800s, will be remembered by a blue plaque.
It was unveiled at the Boar’s Head Bistro, in High Street, after a campaign for a permanent reminder of his incredible feats was successful.
The ceremony to unveil the plaque was attended by four descendants of Joseph, who had the nickname of Stormy Petrel because whenever a gale blew up, he looked for ships in distress so that he could help.
His great-great-grandchildren Deb Scott, Christine Sexton, Nick Scott and Charles Somerset beamed with pride as the Mayor of Sunderland, Coun Lynda Scanlan, revealed the memorial.
Singer Eileen Richardson performed a song in tribute to Joseph as the plaque was unveiled.
Deb and Chrstine researched Joseph’s story and helped to lead the campaign for the plaque.
Deb, who lives in London’s East End, said: “It’s fantastic that there will be a permanent reminder to Stormy here in Sunderland.
“He was a forgotten hero but is now being remembered again.
“He saved lives and said the most valued medal he ever received was from the Mayor of Sunderland, so it is fitting that the current Mayor of Sunderland unveiled the plaque.
“It makes us really, really proud.
“I came to Sunderland in February during the stormy weather and I thought of him swimming out in those kind of conditions to save lives.
“I don’t know how he did it.”
Joseph was born in Dunning Street, Sunderland, in 1829, and was aged just 15 when he jumped into the River Wear to save the life of three-year-old John Snowdon.
By the mid-1860s, he had rescued the crews of 15 ships as part of a lifeboat team, as well as numerous people himself.
The campaign for him to be permanently honoured in Sunderland was backed by the Boar’s Head, Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott, Sunderland Maritime Heritage group and Sunderland City Council.
Campaigners say the plaque will remain on the wall of the Boar’s Head for two years until a permanent site is ready in Keel Square.
Coun Scanlan said: “It was a most special occasion, and it gave me great pleasure to be part of the ceremony to unveil the blue plaque.
“Joseph is Sunderland’s, if not Great Britain’s, greatest peacetime hero, and at last his bravery is being acknowledged.
“His unselfishness to people shone and in today’s world, we could probably learn a lot from Joseph’s spirit.
“I would like to pay tribute and thank the people who made it possible.”
Joseph even won a gold medal from Napoleon III after coming to the aid of the stricken French schooner Les Trois Soeurs in 1857.
Sadly, he died a poor man after having to sell his medals to survive and spent his last few years in a London slum.