Our talk was entitled, “Bridlington Lifeboat and Coastguards 1805 to Date”. Who better to give the talk than Bro Fred Walkington MBE who crewed for decades on the Bridlington lifeboat including 25 years as coxswain. Throughout the talk Bro Fred showed some amazing photographs from his unrivalled collection on this subject.
Bro Fred reminded us that before 1805 there was no lifeboat. The loss of life was a concern and so a committee in Bridlington decided in 1804 to build one. It was little more than a double-ended rowing boat and was housed at the corner of Chapel Street and Promenade. Its first “shout” was in October 1805 when a boat and crew in peril were safely returned to the harbour.
Bro Fred explained that you could only attempt a rescue if you knew a ship was in danger. If it was over the horizon it was on its own. Inshore it still had to be spotted and so in 1822 the Coastguards were set up peering out to sea from Bishops Baths where the Princes Parade is now.
The national organisation which became the RNLI was founded in 1824 and by 1855 a new lifeboat house was built between South Cliff Road and Windsor Crescent. In 1865 the RNLI introduced a new lifeboat to Bridlington. Bro Fred said some disliked the vessel as unwieldy and so locals produced their own smaller boat, the “Harbinger”. Both took part in the Great Gale rescues of 1871.
The Great Gale prompted the founding of the Volunteer Life Saving Company. They were able to travel quickly with their rocket apparatus along the coast to the point of need.
In 1875 we got our first lifeboat with sails, the “William John Frances”. For a while Barmston and Hornsea also had lifeboats manned from Bridlington.
Bro Fred explained with the aid of photographs how our early lifeboats were launched using horses. He also showed a wonderful photograph of the lifeboat being launched down Trinity Cut with dozens of holiday makers straining on the ropes to control the decent. The introduction of motorised tractors in 1921 eased the launching and recovery process.
In 1931 the “Stanhope Smart” lifeboat arrived. Amazingly this was the first to be fitted with an engine and consequently the crew could be reduced from 13 (including 10 on the oars) to 7.
Lifeboat developments continued. The “William Henry and Mary King” was the first to be self-righting and now had radios. In 1977 she also had radar fitted. Bro Fred talked about some of the rescues and exercises.
Bro Fred concluded with a photographic tour and description of the new 13 metre lifeboat “Anthony Patrick Jones” and its launch equipment; and also the new lifeboat house, which includes facilities for the inshore lifeboat and the Life Guards.
The Prior Garry Sunley asked Bro Andy Jefferson to give the vote of thanks. He commented on Bro Fred’s excellent photographs and passion for the subject.