Scarborough RNLI

Saving lives around Scarborough's seas since 1801

Our history and stories of gallant acts

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13 displayed on station wall plaque

The story of Scarborough lifeboat is one of continual bravery against the odds in the often-cruel North Sea. The crews of the station have been awarded 35 medals. Sixteen crew members have perished during heroic rescues since the station was founded in 1801. Scarborough's lifeboat service is one of the oldest in the British Isles and predates the RNLI (originally the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck), which was formed in 1824.

2016

New lifeboat and lifeboathouse

The lifeboathouse opens in time for the arrival of the new Shannon all-weather lifeboat.

2015

Bronze medal awarded to helm

Andrew McGeown, 32, died on 22 February 2015 when he went into the sea to rescue his dog, Arnold.

The courage, skill and leadership of a Scarborough RNLI crewman was recognised after he took part in a dangerous and difficult service in rough conditions in 2015.

Rudi Barman (36) was awarded the RNLI's bronze medal for gallantry, an honour last bestowed nationally three years ago and locally in 1973.

Crew members Craig Burnett (45), Adam Beston (30), Peter Billingsley (48) and Jason Hedges (29) received letters of thanks in recognition of their part in the incident.

On 22 February, Scarborough's inshore lifeboat launched into strong winds, treacherous seas and darkness in an attempt to rescue local man Andrew McGeown, who got into difficulties after going into the sea to rescue his dog.

With Rudi in command and Craig and Adam on board, they repeatedly manoeuvred the D-class lifeboat towards the shore amidst confused and breaking waves.

They eventually managed to haul Andrew onto the lifeboat, return him to shore and administer CPR.

Peter and Jason, a paramedic, continued to administer CPR on shore, but tragically Andrew did not survive.

RNLI operations director George Rawlinson said: "It took exceptional boat-handling skill, leadership and bravery for Rudi, along with his crew, to attempt to rescue Mr McGeown in confused seas, at night and close to a dangerous shore." Although this rescue was marked by tragedy, it is a testament to their team work and tenacity that they did everything they could to reach the casualty and bring him ashore, he said.
I would like to thank Rudi, his lifeboat crew and the shore crew for their courage and dedication. I'd also like to recognise and thank their families and the community who support the station's volunteers. Our charity couldn't do its lifesaving work without their support and I appreciate their help and commitment."

Rudi said: "It is a great honour to receive this award and I feel very proud to be a part of Scarborough lifeboat crew and the RNLI."

"This was a difficult rescue in very challenging conditions and we did everything we possibly could for Andrew so we were all devastated that we were unable to save him. It was a huge effort from all those involved and a real tragedy he did not survive. Andrew was known personally by many of the crew and his loss was felt across the whole town. My thoughts are with his family and friends at what I'm sure is still a very difficult time for them."

1954

1954 disaster

One of the worst days in the history of Scarborough RNLI began with a storm brewing.

As it grew worse, the ECJR lifeboat was launched, at 11.40am on 8 December 1954, to help fishing boats known to be at sea.

In rough seas and a south-easterly gale, the lifeboat started by escorting the Venture, a coble with one man aboard, into the harbour.

Ten other fishing boats were known to be at sea, to the north, so the lifeboat went out again and eventually escorted all but three to safety.

At 3.20pm, the ECJR put out to sea again, to look for the missing boats.

By that time, the gale had become severe and was blowing against an ebb tide, causing steep, breaking waves up to 15ft high.

Heavy cloud, driving spray and sleet greatly reduced visibility.

News was then received that the three missing boats had all reached Whitby, so the ECJR was recalled.

The lifeboat headed for the harbour on a north-westerly course, with the wind and heavy seas astern, the crew streaming a drogue (anchor) astern to steady the boat.

Coxswain John Sheader and another crewman were at the wheel and slowly, carefully, worked the lifeboat closer and closer to the harbour entrance.

As a particularly heavy wave was seen coming up astern, the engines were eased right back, until the wave passed and then they were run at half-speed again.

At 4.45pm, as the lifeboat approached the harbour for the eighth time that fateful day, when it was only about 200 yards away from safety, a gigantic wave smashed right over the boat.

The coxswain, who saw it coming, shouted for the engines to be put into neutral and for everyone to "hang on!"

Almost completely submerged by the wave, the boat was driven forward for about 30 yards by a solid wall of water. The boat sheered to port. The next wave struck the boat on the port quarter. The ECJR capsized and both engines cut out immediately, as they were designed to do.

The lifeboat righted itself in seconds, with three crew members still aboard. Two others were quickly hauled back on board. But as they tried to grab the hands of second coxswain John Cammish, the heavy seas swept him from their grasp.

Cammish and Sheader were washed ashore shortly afterwards. They were rushed to hospital but died. Signalman Frank Bayes had received a severe blow to the forehead, possibly in the capsize, and his body was recovered a few hours later.

The ECJR received only superficial damage; the engines and radio continued to work perfectly.

Within 48 hours, a new crew had been formed, including all five survivors.

The survivors were Ernie Eves, Bob Crawford, Mickey Scales, Jitta Sheader and Allan Rennard.

Every year since 1951, the anniversary of the tragedy has been commemorated by a service at St Mary's Church remembering those three in particular but also other lifeboat crew who have perished at sea. They include Frank Dalton, who died in a horrific accident in tumultuous seas on 9 December 1951.

1951

1951 disaster

One of the worst days in the history of Scarborough RNLI began with a storm brewing.

As it grew worse, the ECJR lifeboat was launched, at 11.40am on 8 December 1954, to help fishing boats known to be at sea.

In rough seas and a south-easterly gale, the lifeboat started by escorting the Venture, a coble with one man aboard, into the harbour.

Ten other fishing boats were known to be at sea, to the north, so the lifeboat went out again and eventually escorted all but three to safety.

At 3.20pm, the ECJR put out to sea again, to look for the missing boats.

By that time, the gale had become severe and was blowing against an ebb tide, causing steep, breaking waves up to 15ft high.

Heavy cloud, driving spray and sleet greatly reduced visibility.

News was then received that the three missing boats had all reached Whitby, so the ECJR was recalled.

The lifeboat headed for the harbour on a north-westerly course, with the wind and heavy seas astern, the crew streaming a drogue (anchor) astern to steady the boat.

Coxswain John Sheader and another crewman were at the wheel and slowly, carefully, worked the lifeboat closer and closer to the harbour entrance.

As a particularly heavy wave was seen coming up astern, the engines were eased right back, until the wave passed and then they were run at half-speed again.

At 4.45pm, as the lifeboat approached the harbour for the eighth time that fateful day, when it was only about 200 yards away from safety, a gigantic wave smashed right over the boat.

The coxswain, who saw it coming, shouted for the engines to be put into neutral and for everyone to "hang on!"

Almost completely submerged by the wave, the boat was driven forward for about 30 yards by a solid wall of water. The boat sheered to port. The next wave struck the boat on the port quarter. The ECJR capsized and both engines cut out immediately, as they were designed to do.

The lifeboat righted itself in seconds, with three crew members still aboard. Two others were quickly hauled back on board. But as they tried to grab the hands of second coxswain John Cammish, the heavy seas swept him from their grasp.

Cammish and Sheader were washed ashore shortly afterwards. They were rushed to hospital but died. Signalman Frank Bayes had received a severe blow to the forehead, possibly in the capsize, and his body was recovered a few hours later.

The ECJR received only superficial damage; the engines and radio continued to work perfectly.

Within 48 hours, a new crew had been formed, including all five survivors.

The survivors were Ernie Eves, Bob Crawford, Mickey Scales, Jitta Sheader and Allan Rennard.

Every year since 1951, the anniversary of the tragedy has been commemorated by a service at St Mary's Church remembering those three in particular but also other lifeboat crew who have perished at sea. They include Frank Dalton, who died in a horrific accident in tumultuous seas on 9 December 1951.

1880

A storm of tremendous violence in 1880

A storm of tremendous violence broke over the Yorkshire coast on 28 October 1880. Vessels all over the North Sea made a dash for the nearest port. About a score made for Scarborough. Many failed to reach the area, let alone the harbour. Some foundered at sea, while others ran ashore north or south of the town, to be broken up on the rocks. Nine ships reached the vicinity of the harbour, but only one managed to gain entrance, and ironically, this one broke its moorings and was washed out into the bay to join the other eight stranded vessels.

The Lady Leigh lifeboat was in use throughout the day , rowing back and forth through the raging surf to each of the wrecks in turn. Seven crew were saved from the brig Mary of South Shields, five were taken from the Bideford schooner Black Eyed Susan and eight were saved from the French brig Jeune Adolphe. After its return from this rescue, the lifeboat was accidentally grounded. A fourth vessel, the Arun of Littlehampton, was in desperate need of help from the shore. A party of fishermen grabbed a smack and pushed off from the shore in it. Eventually they reached the stricken brig and took off the six crewmen before landing safely to a great cheer from the assembled crowd.

Three more vessels came ashore and the crews managed to save themselves without the aid of the lifeboat. By this time the lifeboatmen had recovered their strength. The lifeboat was ready for launching once more when the ketch J. Prizeman from Plymouth came ashore. Darkness had fallen by this time, but the lifeboat was again successful in taking off three men, a woman and a boy.

All night the lifeboat and rocket brigade waited in readiness, but it was not until noon the next day that the Lady Leigh was required again. A Dutch galliot came ashore and the crew took to the rigging of the vessel. With great difficulty, the lifeboat approached the wreck and took off the two men and a boy. The Galliot was, according to the lifeboat records, named the Herbruder, but other sources suggest that its name was Gebruder or Zwei Gebruder. This vessel was not a total wreck. It was bought and repaired by Isaac Cox of Scarborough, renamed Five brothers and put to work as a collier.
Seven of the nine stranded vessels were total wrecks however. The most surprising feature of this destructive storm is that no lives were lost, thanks to the supreme efforts of the lifesaving services. Coxswain John Owston received a silver medal for his part in the work, having rescued 28 men from five shipwrecks.

1872

In September 1872, the Mary lifeboat was replaced by a larger and stronger boat called the Lady Leigh, presented by the Freemasons of Warwickshire. It seemed like the local lifeboat crew liked to alternate between larger and smaller boats; each time they received a new boat, it was the opposite of the retiring one.

The Lady Leigh was essentially a sailing rather than rowing lifeboat, and as such, was not ideally suited for its work at Scarborough. Despite this, it was soon to earn the highest reputation possible and became a popular boat with the crew.

The first rescue by the Lady Leigh took place on 10 November 1872, when the Whitby brig Palestine struck Ramsdale Scar, a rock outcrop in the middle of the south bay. The six crew were taken off by the lifeboat. Within two hours, the Brig had been smashed to pieces by the waves.

1861

Loss of Scarborough lifeboat 1861


The lifeboat tragedy of 2 November 1861 was perhaps the most memorable in Scarborough RNLI's history. It took place just yards off the Spa walls. It was witnessed by many who watched the drama unfold.

It was a scene of awful grandeur. In the years to come Henry Redmore, Ernest Roe, Paul Marny and JN Carter painted the tragedy. They caught the mountainous waves, the heroism of the lifeboatmen and watching spectators on the Spa.

Before the lifeboat was called out, the storm had already caused a lot of damage. The town was hit by hurricane strength winds. Houses in New Queen Street had their roofs blown off. Similar damage occurred in Falsgrave and the Marionettes Theatre.

The huge seas almost rose above the level of the West pier, nearly sweeping away the salesmen's offices. Many boats moored in Sandside were moved to the streets beyond to protect them.

Tragedy and loss of life had already occurred that night before the Amelia lifeboat was called out. A pilot named William Leadley had already escorted in the Wave. His local knowledge was vital as Scarborough is a tricky port to enter. There are cross currents at the entrance to the harbour and boats can easily miss the turn. The master of the Wave described two other vessels in trouble. William Leadley went back to sea to help. He was never seen again. Mr Appleyard the harbour master had already reported that a merchant ship or collier had foundered on rocks three miles to the south.

At noon, the Coupland, a schooner from South Shields, attempted to enter the harbour but failed. As it headed for the Spa promenade walls, the lifeboat was called out. The breaks were so huge that stones had already been dislodged from the parapet. The lifeboat soon got into trouble as the coxswain was thrown overboard.

The lifeboat floated on the water like a cork but didn't capsize. In returning from the Spa walls after it had struck a second time, it lay partly on one side. A heavy sea washed several of the crew overboard, not being lashed to the boat, and some of the oars were lost. Thomas Brewster was washed overboard and drowned. Nothing but the great excellence of the boat could have saved her from going to pieces, with the repeated dashings against the Spa.

Notable deaths occurred in the crowd. Ropes were thrown from the Spa promenade to the boat. The lifeboat was pulled to calmer water. But as the lifeboatmen jumped into the surf they were dragged out to sea by receding waves. Lord Charles Beauclerc died trying to help those in the sea. At the inquest, the jury came to the verdict: "That the deceased, Lord Charles Beauclerc, lost his life accidentally while generously and nobly endeavouring to save the imperished lives of several of his fellow men". William Tindall, 25 year old son of John Tindall, died as he was dragged out to sea. John Isles died wading in to help those in the sea.

Mr Sarony and Mr Rutter recovered the body of Lord Beauclerc. They were nearly lost in the process. Mr Sarony was carried by the waves out of sight of the spectators. He was thrown a lifebelt. Three hours passed before circulation to his body was fully restored.

Two of the lifeboat crew were lost - Thomas Brewster and John Burton. The coxswain Thomas Clayburn was swept away. He was saved but he was "much injured and has been confined to his room ever since". The remaining crew were James Banks, Thomas Ward, William Chambers, Isaac Morley, William Ruston, Robert Maltby, Richard Harrison and William Larkin. Several were injured. The kindness of the Cliff Bridge Company and the Music Hall was noted as they provided clothing and comfort to those rescued.

"During all this excitement the poor fellows on board the riggings of the Coupland were not forgotten. The rocket apparatus was speedily put into practice and worked beautifully. A line was thrown from the Spa over the vessel and the crew of six were landed on the promenade, and as quickly conveyed in cabs to Mrs Morley at the Dolphin Inn, where by order of Mr Stop, chief officer of the coastguard and agent for the Shipwrecked Mariners Association, they were comfortably provided for. The men saved nothing belonging to them and the vessel became a total wreck".

After the storm, the loss of life was counted. Leadley the pilot died probably on board the Harbinger. This was another ship to have gone down that night (out of sight of the crowds). In the incident with the Coupland, two of the lifeboat crew perished. Lord Charles Beauclerc, William Tindall and J Hiles died being dragged from the shore attempting to rescue those in the sea with lines. In total, 24 lives were lost. A Scottish vessel, the Gainsborough Packet, sank with all crew on board four miles south of Scarborough.

The funeral of Lord Beauclerc was held on 8 November 1861. He was described as a most amiable man who was much liked by all who had the pleasure of his acquaintance. He was said to bear a remarkable resemblance to Van Dyke's celebrated portrait of Charles I. Lord Fredrick Beauclerc and Lord George Beauclerc attended the funeral. Bravery seems to have run in the family as Lord Fredrick was awarded a silver medal previously. He had jumped into the harbour at Kingston on a bitter November night to save a woman.

At least Lord Charles Beauclerc had a funeral. A reward of £20 was offered for the recovery of William Tindall's body but it was never found. The bodies of John Burton and Thomas Brewster were not recovered. The sea takes ferociously but sometimes never gives back its victims.

The RNLI awarded a memorial silver medal to Lord Charles Beauclerc and William Tindall; and silver medals to Oliver Sarony and Joseph Rutter for their efforts.

Mr Sarony was a famous photographer who in later years made as much as £10,000 a year. He used some of his wealth to commission a painting called The Shipwreck by Paul Marny based on the tragedy involving the Coupland and the Amelia. Paintings like these have brought to life the tragedy and heroism. Pictures speak a thousand words. They allow many who would never read a historical account to witness the scene which riveted so many onlookers on that fateful day in 1861.

1836

Ten crew perish when lifeboat capsizes

The 1822 lifeboat was capsized whilst attempting a rescue of the crew of the sloop John and Agnes. Ten lifeboat crew perished. The lifeboat was recovered and remained in service.

1824

New lifeboat's first service

1824

RNLI formed

The RNLI was founded on 4 March 1824, 23 years after Scarborough got its first lifeboat. The local service was incorporated into the national body.

The first callout of the Skelton boat, on 11 October 1824, was to prove one of the most heroic. The Sunderland brig Hebe was wrecked in the south bay. Its seven crew were saved and two of the lifeboat crew, John Fowler and Smith Tindall, were awarded silver medals for gallantry. They were the first medals awarded to Scarborough's lifeboat crew.

1807

Storms kill mate but lifeboat crew rescues many in stormy seas

Two dramatic rescues took place on 11 November 1807. The lifeboat saved most of the crew of the John and Ann of Scarborough except the mate, who was killed in the wreck; and the crew of the Mary Wright of Yarmouth. A few days later, seven vessels stranded between Filey Brigg and Scarborough were saved.

1801

The origins of Scarborough lifeboat

Scarborough's lifeboat station, formed in 1801, is one of the oldest in the country.
For many years, Scarborough fishermen had risked their lives in sturdy cobles to save the lives of shipwrecked men and women. A purpose-built lifeboat was needed. Historian and businessman Thomas Hinderwell was a prime mover at various meetings in 1800 and an appeal was launched. On 19 December 1800, before the lifeboat and lifeboathouse were built, a committee was set up to run Scarborough's first lifeboat station. Two crews of 12 fishermen each were selected to work in rotation.
By August 1801, £212 1s 6d had been collected and boatbuilder Charles Smith was commissioned to build a lifeboat. Designed by Greathead, it was 30ft long with a beam of 10ft and 10 oars. As with every lifeboat built before 1851, it wasn't self-righting. It cost £147 and two shillings, or £7,700 in today's money.
It was finished in October 1801 and housed in a lifeboathouse near Beck Mill, where the Aquarium Top roundabout is today.
It didn't have long to wait for its first shout. On 2 November 1801, a tremendous storm battered the east coast. As heavy seas pounded the beach, the Newcastle brig Aurora was in imminent danger, being driven towards the shore. With coxswain John Harwood at the helm, the lifeboat launched and its crew battled their way out to the casualty. By the time the lifeboat reached the brig, heavy seas were repeatedly sweeping over it. With tremendous skill and great courage, the lifeboat was taken close to the brig's lee side and four of the crew rescued. Waves kept filling the lifeboat, which was forced away from the brig. But the rescue vessel manged to getback alongside and rescue the remaining three crew.