Historic meeting for River Tyne lifeboats

Two River Tyne lifeboats separated by 180 years of history have come together for a one-off meeting

Rosie Power who helped restore the Tyne
Rosie Power who helped restore the Tyne

Only a few feet separated two lifeboats as the vessels met up on the River Tyne.

But the gap was 180 years in terms of time and technology.

The lifeboat Tyne, first launched in 1833, was rolled out from the riverside workshop of the North East Maritime Trust in South Shields after five months of dedicated restoration work.

The second oldest lifeboat left in existence, the vessel was back by the water and lined up on the quayside yesterday.

Joining it was the river’s current lifeboat Spirit of Northumberland, which crossed the Tyne from its North Shields base to moor alongside its historic forerunner.

Trust director Tim West said: “This was something which was a one-off and will never happen again.

“Bringing together for the first time the world’s second oldest lifeboat and a modern day lifeboat illustrates the advances in lifeboat design and development from the pioneering days of the world’s first purpose designed rowing lifeboats, that began in South Shields, to the fast high-tech lifeboats of today.


“In just sitting in the Tyne lifeboat, it struck everyone who participated in this project of the bravery, courage and seamanship skills of the local pilots who manned this small open boat in atrocious sea conditions, when going to the aid of those in distress at the mouth of the river.

“The renovation of the Tyne will ensure that not only will the exploits of her crews be remembered, but also that an important part of our local and national maritime heritage will have been be preserved.”

During its 54 years of service the Tyne saved 1,024 lives.

She has been on public display since 1893 near the seafront in South Shields, next to the town’s North and South Marine parks.

The lifeboat will now be put into storage until its protective listed canopy near the seafront has also been restored by the trust.

The North East Maritime Trust is a voluntary body set up to keep alive traditional wooden boat building skills and promote the area’s maritime heritage.

Mr West said differences between the two lifeboats - one wooden and the other of metal construction - include the fact that one was powered by oars and made around four knots, while the diesel engine of the other produces speeds of 25 knots.

Tyne measures 32ft 6in by 10ft, rows 10 oars, weighs 2.6 tonnes, and had a minimum crew of 12.

The work of the early rescue pioneers is continued today by the crew at Tynemouth Lifeboat Station with their self-righting lifeboat the Spirit of Northumberland.

Completed for the station in 1999, at a cost of £1.75m, she has a crew of seven, a range of 250 nautical miles and can carry 124 survivors.

In addition to her twin engines, she is fitted with a hydraulic-powered bow thruster for improved manoeuvrability and carries an inflatable which is used in moderate conditions to access areas where the lifeboat cannot reach.

On board casualty care equipment includes stretchers, oxygen and entonox.

“I think that if the crews of the Tyne boat came back they would be gobsmacked at the Spirit of Northumberland,” said Mr West. Funded by the Tynemouth Lifeboat Appeal the name Spirit of Northumberland was chosen by members of the lifeboat station in recognition of the first lifeboat to be stationed at North Shields, the Northumberland, in 1798.


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