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British Self-Righting Pulling and Sailing Lifeboat

British Self-Righting Pulling and Sailing Lifeboat, around 1890
Builder’s Model, scale 1:12
Great Britain
wood, cork, metal, silver, silk, cotton
model: 62.0 x 90.0 x 26.0 cm
The Thomson Collection © Art Gallery of Ontario

The Thomson Collection of Ship Models Audio Tour

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Download: 2:16 min / 904 KB MP3

Simon Stephens: This is an interesting case here, which covers the whole range of model types in the collection, covering the different types of vessels; cargo ships, warships, service vessels such as tugs and lifeboats as well as vessels for pleasure such as excursion steamers, yachts, that sort of thing. Of particular interest are models of the British lifeboats that were used by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. There are two in this case.

One is un rigged, it’s painted blue and white and it's what they call a self righting, pulling and sailing lifeboat. You'll notice on this model it’s got white air cases at the bow and stern which are curved. So if the boat was upset or overturned, these air cases which were sealed would raise the hull above the water, making it unstable. It would then eventually self right itself.

Something else you’ll note is that there are a series of grab lines around the hull so that people in the water could hold onto these if they went overboard or if they were rescuing survivors from a wreck, they could grab hold of these grab lines as such, and then be pulled on board by the crew themselves.

They were predominately rowed and sailed, and were built in large numbers for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. These models themselves were given to individuals who donated large amounts of money to the institution. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution was funded by voluntary contributions, no money from the state whatsoever.

So anybody who gave a large amount of money was then presented with a beautiful scale model of a lifeboat, probably the one they were involved with in the station.

The other model we have in this case, which is a slightly larger scale than the other one, this is a model of a sailing lifeboat of the Liverpool class. You’ll notice it's got two masts and three sails.

They were manned by volunteer crews from the local village on the coast. These vessels went out in the worst weather possible. They put their lives at great risk, and there are some very, very sad and distressing tales of some of these boats being lost at sea or overturned with a great loss of life.

The other thing to bear in mind is that a lot of these vessels were manned by families. If a lifeboat was lost at sea, it was a great tragedy, both in local terms to the village, as well as a national tragedy.

(Also discussed: British Self-Righting Pulling and Sailing Lifeboat, “Christopher Brown”)

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