The Coxswain And The George Elmy
Statue In Seaham, County Durham
A Coxswain Statue by Ray Lonsdale is a tribute to the RNLI and the 9 lives lost on the Lifeboat 'The George Elmy'.
The Coxswain statue stands on the quay. A Coxswain is responsible for the steering and navigation of a boat, with the name deriving from cock boat (a type of boat) and sveinn, an old Norse word meaning boy or servant.
This piece honours the sacrifices made by the staff and crew of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.
Ray cuts or chops (with a guillotine) Corten steel into pieces and then welds them together forming his trademark artwork. This then oxides to have that pleasing rusty patina.
Ray has said “The sculpture itself was interesting to make with its period clothing and movement in the pose.....It was down to me to come up with the pose, but I wanted it to have some movement. So the plinth is the deck of the boat and he's battling the waves."
Here is the Prowse from Mr. Lonsdale.
'The Coxwains Cry'
There's a white horse coming with many friends,
And I think they'll take us down,
So grab a hold lads and take care of yourselves,
For the sea may have us now.
This Coxswain is lifesize and is at the helm, askew, battling a stormy sea. You can see the pursed lips depicting determination and concentration. He is dressed in 1950s style with oilskins, sou'wester, and life jacket.
The statue is poignant as you will read about The George Elmy Lifeboat below.
The unveiling took place in 2016. Mr. Lonsdale commented at the time
“There's a difference in scale to Tommy but I hope this statue attracts people to come down here and learn more about the work of the RNLI."
This leads us nicely to the building nearby where the Royal National Lifeboat Institution was on the Quayside from 1870 to 1979.
The attached Fisherman's Cabin is the East Durham Heritage and Lifeboat Centre (EDHLC) which opened in 2013.
This is run by the East Durham Heritage Group (EDHG). They are a dedicated group of knowledgeable volunteers that formed in 2007 initially covering Seham and the surrounding area.
You will find all sorts of information and artifacts in the museum. Please check opening times on their website.
Their pièce de resistance is the George Elmy Lifeboat which was stationed at Seaham from 1950 to 1962 and the Coxswain statue is dressed in what the crew would have worn.
It was called the George Elmy as it was paid for by a legacy from Elizabeth Elmy in remembrance of her brother.
The George Elmy had 26 call outs and rescued 20 people in its 12-year tenure.
Visitors can also see the restored George Elmy lifeboat and learn about the tragic events of the 17th of November 1962. It was called out with 5 volunteers to find the missing cobbler Economy which was found with the 4 man crew and a 9 year old boy. All were recused into the lifeboat. However the sea conditions were atrocious, and just as they came within yards of the harbour entrance the George Elmy was struck by gigantic waves and capsized taking with it 8 people including the boy. One person hung on inside the boat until it washed up on Chemical Beach, south of the harbour.
The boat then went to serve Poole, Dorset after extensive repairs, then slipped into obscurity, until 2009 when it appeared on ebay.
Local enthusiasts raised funds to buy it from the person who had bought it on ebay. With much TLC, technical, and restoration work it is sea-worthy once more and occasionally goes out on special days.
How To Find The Coxswain And The George Elmy Lifeboat
Contributed by Rosalind Parker
Thanks for reading through and getting to the end of this post. I enjoy exploring the Fabulous North (Especially as a Southerner residing up North). I like 'snippets' of information, and more so, if they are obscure, amusing or meaningful. The photographs are taken on a mobile phone, without any enhancements.More Places from Rosalind
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