Stories of the Lifeboat
There's fury in the tempest,
And there's madness in the waves;
The lightning snake coils round the foam,
The headlong thunder raves;
Yet a boat is on the waters,
Filled with Britain's daring sons,
Who pull like lions out to sea,
And count the minute guns.
(from The Boatmen of the Downs by Eliza Cook)
Rescue attempts to save the lives of stranded and imperilled sailors and seafarers have undoubtedly been occurring ever since the very first time that man sailed on a floating object away from the safety of the shore and out onto the wild and unpredictable seas of the world.
In Great Britain, it was not until the 1780s that the first proper lifeboat was designed and built which saw service at Bamborough in Northumberland. Through the efforts of private benefactors and voluntary subscriptions more lifeboats were commissioned and stationed at strategic points around the coast and in 1824 the forerunner of today’s Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) was established.
This book, Stories of the Lifeboat was one in a series of inspirational texts written by the Victorian author Frank Mundell for The Sunday School Union. The stories related here, highlight the heroic bravery and selfless courage of the lifeboat crews who were prepared to put their own lives on the line in the face of ferocious storms and atrocious weather conditions as they sought to rescue those in peril on the sea.
Over time, the designs of the lifeboats improved and were made self-righting and included valves to drain away the water that cascaded into the boat. These boats, certainly in earlier times, were totally open to the elements and had to be rowed out to the ship in distress and it was only in later years that steam-powered engines were introduced.
These stories are based on actual incidents and rescues that were undertaken around various parts of the British coast and out in mid-ocean. Some were successful, whilst others ended tragically, sometimes for everyone concerned. But in each case it is hard not to be impressed by the unselfish acts of heroism detailed in these narratives.
- Summary by Steve C
Genre(s): Modern (19th C)