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Circa 1949. former Tynemouth based RNLI lifeboat, the 101-year-old Henry Frederick Swan was retired after 30 years of operational service off the North East coast, on and around the river Tyne.

70 years later, on Easter Saturday 2019, the vessel was returned to the water looking absolutely fabulous after a 14 year restoration programme by members of the South Shields based North East Maritime Trust (NEMT).

Henry Frederick Swan is the former Tynemouth motor, sail and oar lifeboat and was the first restoration project undertaken by the trust when it was established in 2005 to keep alive traditional wooden boat building and repair skills.

As part of the project, a new engine and an electrical system were fitted to comply with modern marine safety requirements.

The lifeboat has been restored to her 1918 livery, using the original builders’ plans of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. All the work was carried out by NEMT volunteers, with the exception of new masts, rigging, sails and rope fenders, sourced from specialist manufacturers.

At the re-launch, which was watched by an enthusiastic crowd of around 100 people, the Rev Phillip Bullock performed a blessing of the boat at the quayside, while the brass band of the People’s Mission in South Shields played.

Until Saturday 4th May, the boat will be moored at Newcastle Quayside near the Tyne Bridge so that people can view her.

The trust also has plans to apply for registration with the Marine and Coastguard Agency to use the lifeboat to operate passenger river trips from the Quayside down river, to raise funds for the organisation’s restoration activities.

John Lightfoot MBE, Solar Solve Marine’s chairman is an ad-hoc sponsor of the NEMT and is especially supportive of the facts that it keeps old traditional boatbuilding skills alive and provides an opportunity for people in the community to keep active by doing something that is of mutual interest and benefit to themselves and the community.

He commented, “The re-launch of the restored Henry Frederick Swan is the conclusion of 14 years of hard work for the trust’s volunteers.  However, a significant number of other boats and associated projects have also been achieved by the enthusiastic group over the same period.”

“One such vessel is the 185-year-old TYNE, the world’s second oldest lifeboat that was built in 1833, served for more than 50 years on the River Tyne at South Shields and saved 1,028 lives.”

“A team of NEMT volunteers helped to restore the lifeboat over a five month period, working closely with South Tyneside Council, who have provided a permanent home for the vessel under a display canopy at Pier Parade in South Shields.”