Wednesday, 16 June 2010


The talented Misses Strickland of Reydon Hall near Southwold in Suffolk, there were a few of them but in this case Agnes and Susanna, published a book of Patriotic Songs in 1831. What’s more the sailor king, William IV, graciously permitted them to dedicate it to him. These young women knew about lifeboats. There was not yet one at Southwold but perhaps at Cromer and elsewhere on that cold coast. They wrote a song and set it to music. It became what might be called a hit.

Forty years on, on Wednesday January 6th 1871, the tempests were dark over Exmouth. The lyrics of the Misses Strickland’s song were published in the Exmouth Journal. The authors were not acknowledged. The paper reported, “Yesterday it blew a complete hurricane,…. windows were completely blown away… and many people were so frightened as to be compelled to leave their beds and call for assistance.” It was clearly time to remember “The Lifeboat!”. Dig it out, Henry!


The lifeboat! the lifeboat! When tempests are dark,
She’s the beacon of hope to the foundering barque!
When midst the wild roar of the hurricane’s sweep,
The minute-guns boom like a knell on the deep.

The lifeboat! the lifeboat! the whirlwind and rain,
And white-crested breakers, oppose her in vain;
Her crew are resolved and her timbers are staunch,
She’s the vessel of mercy - God speed to her launch!

The lifeboat! the lifeboat! how fearless and free
She wins her bold course o’er the wide-roaming sea!
She bounds o’er the surges with gallant distain;
She has stemm’d them before and she’ll stem them again.

The lifeboat! the lifeboat! she’s manned by the brave,
In the noblest of causes commissioned to save;
What heart but has thrilled in the seaman’s distress,
At the lifeboat’s endeavours, the lifeboat’s success!

The lifeboat! the lifeboat! no vessel that sails
Has stemm’d such rough billows and weather’d such gales;
Not e’en Nelson’s proud ship, when his death-strife was won,
Such true glory achiev’d as the lifeboat has done.

What a song! We should all sing it every National Lifeboat Day. I wonder how the tune goes!

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