Death at 88 of Bob Swalwell, a popular character around seafront and Old Town

Bob and Betty Swalwell
Bob and Betty Swalwell
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Bob Swalwell, a former minesweeper, publican and lifeboat volunteer, has died, aged 88.

He passed away in his sleep at 4.45am on Monday, with his wife Betty at his side at home in Scarborough.

Bob had been in poor health for the last couple of years and had been receiving respite and medical care at St Catherine’s Hospice.

He wanted his funeral to be on a Friday afternoon, because, he said, local fishermen would have finished work by then. It will be at St Mary’s Church next week.

The flags at the lifeboathouse and the Wilsons Mariners Homes have been lowered to half mast as a mark of respect.

Bob was a prominent and active member of the seafront community, with many friends and acquaintances.

His distinctive white quiff made him recognisable a long way off. Modest and proud, Bob had a ready smile, a sharp wit and an excellent memory, said his friend Dave Barry.

Born in Dumple Street (now Friargate) in 1925, Bob spent all his life on or close to the sea. As a teenager, he couldn’t wait to enlist in the armed forces, following in the footsteps of his father, four brothers and three sisters.

He joined the Royal Navy in 1943 and was posted aboard HMS Ganges.

“We were seconded to the minesweepers and served up and down the east coast,” he said in an Evening News interview in 2008.

“When the Japs capitulated we were sent to Malaya. We swept the islands around Singapore clear of mines, and the Dutch East Indies, which is now Indonesia.”

Bob met Betty in 1947 and they married at the register office, in Dean Road, the following year.

The couple had three children – Robert, Stephen and Christine – six grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.

In 1958, Bob began a long association with the RNLI. He spent 15 years as a crew member then assistant mechanic on the main lifeboat. For six of those years he doubled up on the inshore boat.

In 1970, the RNLI awarded a commendation to Bob for “meritorious conduct” during a rescue.

He collected money for the lifeboat, the fishermen and firemen’s charity fund, the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen and other charities.

For many years, Bob played a key role in organising the wreath-laying at sea on Remembrance Sunday for the Royal British Legion, and collected money for the same cause from 1958 until 2004.

But voluntary work didn’t pay the bills. Bob and Betty were publicans for many years, running the Castle Inn, nicknamed Shalla Watta, in Longwestgate, then the Britannia and Golden Last in Eastborough from 1958 to 1973.

Bob was the third oldest of nine and his mum was one of 16. His elder brother Frank, who lives in Burniston, was a prisoner-of-war in Italy and Germany for four years during World War Two.