Coverack Lifeboats: The naming ceremony of the William Taylor of Oldham

One of the positive things about Lockdown has been having the time to reflect and look back on old photos of Coverack. We have not been the only ones doing this as we have received some lovely photos and answered some interesting questions because these photos have reached a wider audience.

A little while ago we received and interesting email from a gentleman who said:

“Whilst on holiday in, I think, 1956, we saw what I think was the launching of the new lifeboat at Coverack.  My mother painted that scene and I have a photograph which, together with a sketch, she used to paint it.
Would you happen to know the name of the vessel?  After the ceremony (and that might have included a Christening), I and my two brothers managed to have a ride on the new lifeboat.  From memory, I seem to recall that the fact that the vessel had diesel engines was of particular note – but I don’t know why? Great memories of that day.”

We replied:

Having done a bit of research; the Coverack Lifeboat that you refer to would be the William Taylor of Oldham, which arrived for service in Coverack in 1954 and as you say had diesel engines. The launch and official naming ceremony was 10th September 1954, according to Cyril Hart’s book ‘Cornish Oasis.’ That was the first occasion that ‘distinguished guests and some villagers’ where taken for a trip around the Bay.

We have also found this YouTube video: The Village Turned Out. This clip shows the naming ceremony of the William Taylor of Oldham, from a different angle but definitely the same day.


Old Lifeboat

We then received a scanned photo : “It is 2.25 inches square and almost certainly taken with a Kodak Brownie which used 117 roll film…It is stained with blue paint – oils.  I remember vividly my mother painting this event in her studio in Willesborough, Ashford Kent.  The painting was, I think, sold and I have not been able to find any trace of it on the internet.”

Above is the photo that we were sent, after a little ‘photoshop’ treatment to remove most of the oil paint marks. Please respect the copyright of this image to Barbara Geering 1954. It is much appreciated that we have been allowed to share these memories and photos and hopefully it can trigger other memories and it means that these occasions are not forgotten.

A couple of questions arose from the gentleman who sent the photo to us:

“What wonderful memories all this is bringing back.  I therefore assume that the new lifeboat was named whilst it was afloat in the harbour as shown in the film with a bottle of champagne, I assume – what a waste, oh well.  But how did we come to be aboard on the slip way so that those in the bow got soaked – a memory fixed in the mind of both my brother and another who was a school friend of his who was on holiday with us?”

These points could possibly be answered by reading Cyril Hart’s Cornish Oasis book about Coverack. Cyril mentions that the weather conditions on the day of the naming ceremony were stormy and goes on to say:

“The new Lifeboat then took distinguished guests and some villagers for a trip around the Bay. The passengers had an opportunity of seeing how the boat reacted in stormy weather. On occasions like this, Coxswain Archie Rowe always enjoyed turning his craft into the wind so that the spray would come aboard and encourage his passengers to dig a little more deeply into their pockets when the collection box was taken around by a member of the crew. It was estimated that it would cost £1,000 a year to maintain the William Taylor of Oldham so it was essential to get contributions from every possible source.”

Two other points worth noting, according to Cyril Hart :

The other Lifeboat in the harbour was The Cadgwith Lifeboat, Guide of Dunkirk (not the preceding Coverack Lifeboat  ‘The Three Sisters’.)

The boat was christened with a bottle of wine, not champagne!

If you have any information or further photos about the naming ceremony of the Willian Taylor of Oldham or Coverack Lifeboats we would love to hear from you and the gentleman who sent the email has asked. “Do you have any photographs of that event – perhaps of a lady sketching?”