The fate of Scarborough's old lifeboats ... and why one, the ECJR, will probably never be restored

Evocative photos of two of Scarborough’s old lifeboats as they are now have surfaced.

Sunday, 10th January 2021, 12:43 pm
Updated Sunday, 10th January 2021, 12:46 pm

The ill-fated ECJR, on which three crew died in 1954, lies on the shore of a Scottish loch.

And the Amelia, which served the town from 1978-91, is languishing in an old marina in South Ferriby, near Hull.

The ECJR photos were posted on Facebook by Graham Drydale to mark the 66th anniversary of one of the worst disasters to befall Scarborough RNLI.

Three of Scarborough's former lifeboats ... the ECJR, Amelia and JG Graves of Sheffield.

Coxswain Jack Sheader and crew members Francis Bayes and John Cammish died when the boat capsized in the harbour mouth on a stormy day in December 1954.

“I was very surprised to discover the fate of the lifeboat,” Graham said. “ECJR is lying abandoned on the shores of Loch Harport on the Isle of Skye. Bit of a sad end for a brave boat.

“ECJR was Scarborough’s first self-righting lifeboat and was one of only five in her class to be fitted with twin engines. She was built by Groves & Guttridge in Cowes in 1950 and

entered service in 1951.”

Pictures show the ECJR on the shore of Loch Harport on the Isle of Skye; the ECJR naming ceremony in 1951; and the ECJR being launched.

The ECJR was only slightly damaged during the 1954 storm and was back on service within 48 hours. The wooden vessel carried on saving lives at Scarborough until 1956, when it was succeeded by the Annie Ronald & Isabella Forrest.

Graham’s post has stirred up conflicting opinions on what should happen to the remains of the ECJR. Some think it would be a fitting end for the old lifeboat to be brought back to Scarborough, restored and put on display as a memorial. However, others, especially relatives and friends of the crew who died, feel the ECJR should stay where it is or even be burnt.

Asked if the ECJR should be brought back, Jack Sheader’s granddaughter Avril Watson said: “Definitely not. I said it years ago when it was brought back. It’s an insult to the families involved for it to be a pleasure boat and sail over the very spot where it happened.”

Pictures show, clockwise from top left, the Amelia today, in an old marina in South Ferriby; the Amelia being launched; the JG Graves of Sheffield at the Historic Dockyard in Chatham; the Fanny Victoria Wilkinson and Frank Stubbs in Chile.

Among the comments below Graham’s post was one from Ryan Sheader: “I don’t feel it would be wanted by us in Scarborough. My stepdad’s grandfather was one of those lost in the disaster.

“There was an attempt to keep it here in times gone by as a pleasure craft. The general feeling was, it was the worst disaster of the [local] RNLI and nobody wanted it here as any sort of

reminder, they wanted rid, and it went.”

The tragedy is commemorated by an annual memorial service at St Mary’s Church and a plaque in the lifeboathouse.

The Oakley-class Amelia was sold by the RNLI in 1992 and stood in a Grimsby boatyard for a while, according to current owner Richard Sheard.

It was then sold to the Shipwreck Treasure Museum in the old clay-port of Charlestown in Cornwall, where it was on display until about 2017. It slowly deteriorated and was no longer required when the museum was bought by Tim Smit of the Eden Project.

It went into storage on a Cornish campsite, then sat in a farmyard until it was offered free to a good home. Richard, who lives near Hull, took the boat to South Ferriby in March 2019.

Richard is a lifeboat enthusiast who has another Oakley, one of Rhyl’s old lifeboats, at Bangor in Wales. He wants to restore the Amelia to its former glory.

“It will take a few years,” he said.

The Amelia was replaced by the Mersey-class Fanny Victoria Wilkinson and Frank Stubbs, which left Scarborough in 2016 and is now in Valparaiso, Chile, still operating as a lifeboat.

A fourth former Scarborough lifeboat, the JG Graves of Sheffield (1958-78), is now at the Historic Dockyard in Chatham. “It’s still owned by RNLI and is in immaculate condition, sat on a carriage in the museum,” said Richard.