Ann Letitia Russell - former lifeboat saved by the people of Fleetwood
- Credit: Matt Consadine
The people of Fleetwood have come to the aid of the town’s former lifeboat. Words by Paul Mackenzie
She served the town of Fleetwood for almost 40 years, rescuing more than 150 people, and now it’s her turn to be saved. When word reached the town that their former lifeboat, the Ann Letitia Russell, was rotting away in an East Anglian marina, a plan was hatched to bring her home.
Now she’s back, a major refurbishment project has begun which those involved hope will end with her being put on display on the sea front.
Former trawlerman and semi-retired plumber Jeff Jackson started the appeal after reading about the lifeboat’s plight in the local weekly newspaper. ‘I thought it would be a good idea to get it back to Fleetwood so I put something on Facebook,’ he said. ‘I was gobsmacked by the response. There were hundreds of replies from people so we got a group a together and set up a basic plan. It took every day of my life for three months to get her back but we’ve done that now and this is where the real work starts.’
The Ann Letitia Russell was bequeathed by Manchester woman Ann Russell in memory of her mother Ann Letitia Russell. Ann also bequeathed the lifeboat John Russell to Montrose in memory of her father.
The 41 foot vessel had been out of the water at Lowestoft for six years before she was brought home and is now in an Associated British Ports compound where she is being checked over.
‘She’s not in as bad a condition as we thought she was going to be,’ Jeff said. ‘The reports we’d had were that she was rotting away, but the hull is in very good condition and the parts of the deck we have seen so far looks in good condition too. We’re keeping our fingers crossed for the parts of her we’ve not seen yet being ok too.’
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Jeff, who used to watch the Ann Letitia Russell launch when he was a child growing up in Fleetwood, is now chairman of the group which aims to preserve her.
‘I grew up around the lifeboat,’ he said. ‘I lived about half a mile away and I knew most of the crew in the 60s and 70s. Most people in Fleetwood have a connection with the lifeboat in some way – the grandfather of one of our volunteers was rescued by her, so if it wasn’t for her he might not be here now. Our ultimate aim is too have her restored and on display by her 80th birthday in 2018.
‘We don’t want to put her back in the water, it would be a massive job to make her water-tight again. She will be more accessible to more people if we can find a place on the sea front as near as possible to where she started, somewhere between the old pier and the lower lighthouse.’
The group are now applying for charitable status and want to give the lifeboat a secure home close to where she was launched between 1939 and 1976, as a permanent reminder of the perils of the sea.
There she would take her place alongside the poignant Welcome Home statue of a mother waving to her menfolk, a memorial to fisherman who died at sea and a commemorative plaque remembering the victims of a helicopter crash in Morecambe Bay in 2006.