Mystery buyer to save lifeboat

The old Lytham lifeboat in the boat yard.

The old Lytham lifeboat in the boat yard.

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It helped save dozens of lives during its service on the Fylde coast and now a saviour has been found to rescue a historic RNLI boat from the scrap heap – with a little help from The Gazette.

Lytham St Annes RNLI launched an appeal earlier this year to save the Dunleary, a Second World War lifeboat which was in danger of being broken up.

The boat took part in 58 rescues, saving 30 lives while based at Lytham, but its current owner, Pat Jopling, could no longer store it at the boatyard she owns in Amble, Northumbria, as it is being redeveloped.

Now an anonymous businessman from Lytham has come forward to save the vessel and return it to the Fylde coast – thanks to stories printed in The Gazette and its sister paper the Lytham St Annes Express.

Pete Whalley, of Lytham St Annes RNLI said: “We had two people interested in saving the boat.

“One of them was a farmer, who does this sort of thing as a bit of a hobby, with the other being a local businessman. He has got the ability to project manage the lifeboat and restore it to its former glory.

“He told us he had seen the stories in the papers.

“I believe he has met with the lady who owns the boat, Pat Jopling, to discuss saving it. It seems fairly serious.

“It would be fantastic to have this piece of local history back in the area.”

The Dunleary was built at Cowes on the Isle of Wight in 1919 and had been serving in Dun Laoghaire, near Dublin, in Ireland, where she had helped save 55 lives before coming to Lytham.

Its finest hour was on the night of November 25, 1939, when it helped rescue 15 men in a 24-hour period off the coast of Lytham. The boat launched four times and resulted in two RNLI crewmen John James Parkinson,and George Harrison, receiving special medals for their bravery.

It is now hoped the boat, which would need significant restoration, will be returned to its home on the Fylde coast.

Mr Whalley added: “The man who will end up taking the boat on will be looking for support. I know he wants local people to help make it into a community project and help restore it. We have people in the RNLI who are builders and are skilled in this sort of restoration, but it would be nice to get people involved and return it to the region.”

Pat Jopling, who currently owns the boat, said the vessel deserved to be restored. She added: “I would love to see her restored to her former condition and as she has such a great history she deserves to be preserved. She was the first motor lifeboat to be provided by the Civil Service and the last lifeboat to actually use sails.”

The boat is expected to be transported back to the region in the coming months, before restoration work will start.

l Anyone interested in helping Lytham St Annes RNLI with the restoration should call (01253) 714900.