Runswick Bay Rescue Boat

While a number of fishermen were on the look-out during the height of the storm at Runswick Bay on Saturday afternoon, a large laden vessel was seen drifting towards the shore. So enormous were the waves that at times only the tops of the masts were visible. Just outside the broken water a huge wave swept over the vessel, carrying away the deck-house, and the captain, who was in it, was never seen again. The vessel continued to drift towards the shore, being now entirely at the mercy of the waves, but as there was at the time no sign of any living person aboard, the fishermen on shore did not deem necessary to go out to her. Suddenly, however, the crew were seen to rush from below, and swarm up the rigging, and almost simultaneously the entire body of spectators—men, women, and children—rushed to the lifeboat. The latter was quickly manned and launched into the boiling surf. At this juncture the storm increased in violence, and for time the vessel and lifeboat alike were hidden from view. The female relatives of the lifeboatmen, fearing the worst, turned weeping from the scene, only to return again, and strain their eager eyes in the direction the doomed vessel. At length, however, the ship and the rescuing boat emerged to view. Meanwhile the lifeboat had reached the vessel, and one by one its crew were taken off. The waves by this time were at their worst, and as the sea was now running right up on to the green, it was almost impossible for the lifeboat to land. It had to be allowed to drive on shore broadside on to the waves, which completely buried it from time time. Both rescuers and rescued were completely exhausted on landing, Some of the lifeboatmen had to carried home, and a for time feared that one, Robinson Patton, who was not well at the time he rushed to the rescue, would lose his life. This, however. fortunantely, did not prove to the case. It is only a week or two since a ship drove on shore on a Sunday evening, and being informed of the fact, an entire congregation that had assembled for service flocked the rescue, followed by the pastor.

The year is 1893, and this article appeared in the Shields Daily News following the dramatic rescue1Scenes At Runswick Bay. A Thrilling Experience. | Shields Daily News | Thursday 23 November 1893 | British Newspaper Archive. [online] Available at: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0001168/18931123/085/0003 [Accessed 25 Apr. 2022].

In February, 1934, Robert Patton, coxswain, lost his life in the rescue of the ship, Disperser2SEA RESCUE TRAGEDY. | Leeds Mercury | Tuesday 20 February 1934 | British Newspaper Archive. [online] Available at: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000748/19340220/146/0005 [Accessed 25 Apr. 2022].. He slipped and was crushed between the two vessels,. and was posthously awarded the RNLI’s Gold Medal — the equivalent of the VC3Mead, Harry. “A Prospect of the North York Moors”. Page 139. The Hutton Press Ltd., 2000. ISBN 1 902709 10 1.. In such a small community it seems unlikely that these two men who died 41 years apart having the same surname Patton, is not coincidental, although I haven’t found a connection.

The lifeboat station takes pride of place on the beach at the foot of the village that hangs precariously on the cliff. It dates from 1910, replacing an earlier one4Runswick Bay Lifeboat Station. [online] Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runswick_Bay_Lifeboat_Station#:~:text=In%201910%2C%20a%20new%20station%20was%20erected%20on%20the%20site%20of%20the%20previous%20lifeboathouse [Accessed 25 Apr. 2022]..

In the late 1970s, the station was closed by the RNLI during a ‘restructuring’, concentrating its resources on Staithes. The Runswick Bay residents and the members of the sailing club, who far outnumbered the villagers, were dismayed and felt that some sort of rescue cover was needed. Together they raised the money for their own boat — the Runswick Bay Rescue Boat— which operates alongside the RNLI5Runswick Bay Lifeboat Station. [online] Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runswick_Bay_Lifeboat_Station#Runswick_Bay_Rescue_Boat [Accessed 25 Apr. 2022]..

In 1901, the lifeboat was launched by the women of the village6How The Women Of Runswick Bay Launched The Lifeboat.| Dundee Evening Telegraph | Wednesday 17 April 1901 | British Newspaper Archive. [online] Available at: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000453/19010417/028/0003 [Accessed 25 Apr. 2022].:—

… last Friday the fishermen’s wives did a deed which deserves far wider notice than it has yet received. The fishing boats were caught in a heavy storm before they could return to shore, and were beaten back by the heavy seas every time they made for the beach. All the men of the lifeboat crew, from the coxswain downwards, were out in the fishing smacks, so the women launched the lifeboat themselves. They then whipped up a scratch crew of old men and young lads from the village, and the same women who had dragged the boat down to the beach waded out into deep water and launched the boat from its carriage. Nor did they leave the beach until every man had been brought ashore hours later, and then, drenched to the skin, marched proudly home on their husbands’ arms to their red-tiled cottages on the cliff.

There was a similiar occurance in 1940, when a shortage of manpower because of the war necessitated the women again launching the lifeboat. This, resulted in the saving of the six-man crew of a floundering vessel, and prompted, later that year, the RNLI to provide a tractor to aid in future launches.

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