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MERSEYSIDE HISTORY

Supported by Southport Reporter and Mersey Reporter.
SOUTHPORT Lifeboats, have been serving the community and the coastline for a long time now, with a short period of not existing, in the early 20th century. The lifeboat service was put into action due to the amount of traffic just of the coast of Southport, heading to and from Liverpool, as well as the fishermen that made their living here. Originally the lifeboat men used their own boats and ships to rescue people, and being that most of the service men were fishermen, they were inherently the best at their job, knowing all the local channels and currents. The first vessel was a double-ended and single-masted vessel put into service in 1840 and stayed in service till 1860. During this time the vessel saved 175 lives and a great many vessels. Her first coxswain was Richard Rimmer, but was replaced after 8 years by William Rockcliffe. He remained coxswain until 1875 when he retired at the age of 69 having saved 376 lives. He was one of the most decorated men in the history of the lifeboat service. But he died less than a year after his retirement.

In 1860 the RNLI took over the running of the service and put into service a new boat called the Jessie Knowles, the older Rescue now becoming outdated and in need of repair. The Jessie Knowles saved 79 lives during it's service.

In 1876 the Jessie Knowles was replaced by a newer boat, called the Eliza Fernley which would become the most infamous boat, when it was used to try and save the lives of the crew aboard the boat Mexico. Off course all but two of the crew that served the lifeboat service died in the rescue attempt, along with the entire crew of the St. Anne's boat Laura Janet. The Lytham Lifeboat Charles Biggs was the only lifeboat to make it and managed to save the lives of the crew of the Mexico that night. The boat had still managed to save 52 lives prior to this disaster, but people only remember the bad things and that's what this boat is remembered for. It is still thought to be the largest ever lifeboat disaster in history.

It took 2 years before the boat was replaced but it was by the boat called Mary Anna, which was funded by an Anonymous gift. In the same year a second craft was added to the service because of the volume of traffic in the area, the boat was called the Edith and Annie. These boats were permanently stationed at the end of the pier in an area called the Bog Hole. In 1889 though the Edith and Annie sank at her moorings through silted up chains. In the same year three men including the coxswain William Robinson all drowned checking the mooring chains.

In 1925 due to lack of traffic off the coast, and the increased silting up of the channel and Bog Hole, the service was closed down, and the RNLI left. 

The service was to re-open in 1989 because of several incidents off the coast, which involved the loss of life. The people of Southport decided they needed a lifeboat service and within 14 months of the idea being put on the table it became a reality.

The photographs of the lifeboat on this page are of the boat at the turn of the millennium.

Useful sites for extra information:- www.southport-offshore-trust.co.uk www.merseymaritimemuseum.org.uk

Mersey Reporter and Liverpool Reporter are Trade Marks of Patrick Trollope.   Photographs are copyright of Patrick Trollope 2003