The lifesaving lifeboat from John Crossley

It was good to note the collection for the R.N.L.I. taking place in Halifax last Saturday, mentioned in Tuesday’s Courier.

It is a pity this is such a low-key event these days, as lifeboats and their crews perform a most wonderful task.

How many people today know that, in 1864, John Crossley of Halifax (1812-79) provided a new lifeboat for Redcar, replacing one dating back to 1802?

The ‘Crossley,’ as it was known, was built of mahogany, 33 feet long, 8 feet wide, being rowed by ten oars.

By 1867 six lives had been saved, but the crew thought the mahogany structure too heavy!

The Redcar Lifeboat webpage informs us “The Crossley was not a popular boat, and there were complaints that there was less room than in the Zetland because of the air boxes that provided the self-righting ability.”

So the ’Crossley’ was moved to Middlesbrough; where, by 1870, six more lives had been saved.

In 1876 the ‘Thomas Fielden’ was presented to R.N.L.I. by Joshua Fielden, M.P. (1827-87), with his brothers Samuel and John of Todmorden, in memory of their uncle. This boat served at Holyhead until 1892; its dimensions were 37 feet by 9 feet. It was then replaced by another lifeboat of the same name. In the time of these two boats, 233 lives were saved, mostly from coastal craft off Anglesey. Later, the latter craft was moved to Barrow, where the ‘Thomas Fielden II” served from 1901 until 1927. During that time she was launched fourteen times and saved 45 lives.

In 1887, Herbert Foster (1853-1930) of Littlemoor, Queensbury, presented a new lifeboat to the town of Scarborough. This was 37 feet long and 8 feet broad, propelled by 12 oars. It was named ‘Queensbury;’ and two more of the same name followed.

The first Lifeboat Flag Day - or weekend - in Halifax, seems to have been held in September 1894. We are told that a lifeboat was paraded through Halifax ‘with as much pomp and ceremony as could have been arranged for a royal visit, with a huge procession around the town.

All manner of people took part in this very colourful event,’ including many ‘unwashed and unkempt residents,’ who ‘turned out and gave their coppers - or their approval. The workhouse and Industrial schools of the area had special provision made for the inmates to witness the procession, the women in their white frilled mopcaps and blue aprons … waving their handkerchiefs vigorously … Horses pulled float after float behind them, all making an impressive sight to see.’

At Shibden Park, a crowd of around 9,000 people gathered to watch the Whitby crew launch their lifeboat on to the lake; the men then proceeded to give a rescue display. After this, the boat plied for hire at a fee of 3d. per person.

On the Saturday evening, the Whitby crew attended a Civic Reception, following which they gave a show at Halifax’s Theatre Royal. At this event, crew members related their hair-raising experiences, illustrating these with pictures shown with the aid of a ‘magic lantern.” This Halifax lifeboat weekend raised £519 for the R.N.L.I.

David C Glover,

Baker Fold, Halifax