Newbiggin remembers a lifeboat hero

Rescuers have been honouring a team who helped save fishermen 170 years ago.

Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 9:00 am
Newbiggin's current lifeboat 'Richard Wake Burdon'.

Newbiggin Lifeboat Station has been remembering a rescue which took place with a group of local fishermen led by Philip Jefferson that was the catalyst for the establishment of a lifeboat station at Newbiggin.

Philip Jefferson was the first coxswain of the Station, a volunteer with only the basics of rescue resources.

His role still shines in local folklore as he is the most decorated Coxswain at Newbiggin receiving two medals.

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Lifeboat coxswains at Newbiggin with Phiip Jefferson centre.

On March 18, 1851, Philip and four fishermen in an open coble clawed their way back to the safety of the bay in a storm but on hearing about the plight of other local fishermen, went back out to sea and saved ten people.

Their act of courage was recognised by the RNLI and their President the Duke of Northumberland who provided a lifeboat and a boathouse for Newbiggin the following year.

Philip also was one of a handful of crew and boys who attempted to rescue the crew of the wrecked Norwegian barque Embla in a storm early in 1854.

During the rescue attempt the lifeboat was smashed about on the rocks sustaining damage to the hull and oars with the rescue failing as a result.

The Embla crew all perished and they are buried at the east end of Woodhorn Church but the efforts of Philip was recognised by the RNLI with a bar to his medal.

Philip continued with service to the RNLI into the 1890s being credited with 30 years as Lifeboat Coxswain.

Richard Martin, from Newbiggin Lifeboat Station, said: “This is a fantastic story of this local hero from our local history.

"Philip Jefferson was known as 'Big Philip' named as such as he used all of his strength on the lifeboat oars to get the lifeboat out to rescue and get back home safely.

"He always was there for the call and never turned back when conditions were beyond the limits.

“Technology has certainly moved on over the last 170 years with the modern Atlantic 85 B class lifeboat Richard Wake Burdon providing a fast and nimble rescue platform incorporating modern technology with radio communications, direction finder, chart plotter and radar.

"What hasn't changed is the dedication of our volunteer team, always ready to help others in difficulty 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

"Over 170 years lifeboats and technology have changed but the spirit of ‘Big Philip’ lives on in our dedicated sea rescue volunteers, helping others without hesitation.”