Women out in force to bring lifeboat home

Residents help with the return of the Mary Joicey to Newbiggin-by-the-Sea.
Residents help with the return of the Mary Joicey to Newbiggin-by-the-Sea.

AN HISTORIC lifeboat was finally returned to its former base at the weekend.

The Mary Joicey was the last offshore lifeboat to be stationed at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea and with her crew of volunteers, saved the lives of 90 people before retiring in 1989.

And now she will be given pride of place in the Newbiggin Maritime Centre, which is set to open July this year after a team of Newbiggin women lead the procession to take her to her new home on Sunday.

Until the 1960s local women would pull boats to the water’s edge and, when weather conditions were poor, wade out to sea to get the lifeboat afloat – hence the saying ‘women to the rope, men to the boat’.

And that was re-created on Sunday when 40 women and girls of all ages were involved in the procession.

The arrival of Mary Joicey marks the end of seven years hard work by a group of volunteers who secured funding to first restore the Oakley class lifeboat to her former glory and then, through the Newbiggin-by-the-Sea Heritage Partnership, raised £3m to build the Maritime Centre.

Partnership chairman Richard Martin said: “The return of Mary Joicey is a dream come true.

“Work on the Maritime Centre is ahead of schedule and there is no doubt it will become a very significant landmark on the north east coast.

“This has been a fantastic day and, despite the weather, it was great to see so many people turn out.

“I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights worrying about today, but it has gone like clockwork.”

The procession to bring her back started from outside the Old Ship Inn in Front Street.

To build the centre, the partnership secured core funding from the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), through its Sea Change regeneration initiative for coastal communities, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Northumberland County Council and Go Wansbeck.