Lincolnshire’s Oldest Lifeboatman



Passing of Mr. Thomas Hutson After Nearly 60 Years’ Service

Flare Burnt at Graveside

With the flag of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution draping his coffin, Lincolnshire’s oldest lifeboatman was laid to rest in St. Clement’s Churchyard, Skegness, last Saturday afternoon.

He was Mr. George Thomas Hutson, of 199 Roman Bank, Skewness, a familiar Skegness figure whose total service with the Lifeboat Institution extended over a period of nearly sixty years. He was 86 years of age when his death occurred on Tuesday in last week.

Past and present members of the lifeboat crew either acted as bearers or attended the ceremony to pay their last tribute to a grand old seaman.

A native of Old Bolingbroke, Mr. Hutson came to Skegness at the age of 18, to take a Skegness bride in the person of a daughter of the late Mr. John Woodward, who lived on Roman Bank in those days when the resort was nothing more than a fishing village. He assisted in the building of the Skegness Pier in 1881, and also, at a later date, in the laying out of the present Seacroft Golf Links, at the south end of the town. He also, for several years, was in the employ of the late Mr. George Dunkley (father of the present County Councillor) at the old Sea View Hotel.

He saw service with the Skegness lifeboat soon after his arrival in Skegness, and later became a permanent member of the crew. During a career actively associated with the sea, he served in no fewer than three of the six lifeboats which have been stationed at Skegness since the lifeboat station was moved from Gibraltar Point nearly 110 years ago. He served in the first “Herbert Ingram” lifeboat (an eight-oared boat with a crew of eleven), in the “Herbert Ingram” new lifeboat (a ten-oared boat with a crew of 13), and in the “Ann, John and Mary,” the immediate predecessor of the late Skegness sailing and pulling lifeboat “Samuel Lewis.”
He saw service during the long-remembered November gales of 1893, when the lifeboat launched to the assistance of the cod-smack “Frank“, of Grimsby, which showed signals of distress off Skegness while driving before a northerly gale which she had encountered off the Yorkshire coast. The lifeboat on this occasion was away three days; its crew took the “Frank” into Sutton Bridge, and on the following day was called out to the assistance of a three-masted ship. On its return, the Skegness crew found that the comfortable quarters which they ‘had occupied on the previous night were no longer available, and they slept in the kitchen of a waterside inn, one member of the crew spending the night in a large copper!


Earlier in the same year Mr. Hutson, who at that period was working a pleasure sailing yawl from Skegness beach, rendered assistance on the occasion of the disaster to the pleasure sailing yawlShannon“, on Saturday June 8th, 1893, when that ill-fated vessel capsized in a heavy thunder-squall off Gibraltar Point with the loss of two Skegness boatmen and over twenty of her passengers. Mr. Hutson, who with other Skegness boatmen was at sea off the town when the disaster occurred, sailed his yawl “Bravo” to the scene and was instrumental in recovering eleven of the bodies.

A complete record is not readily available of all of of Thomas Hutson’s services with Skegness lifeboats, but, as one of his old comrades said of him after -his death, “He was always in his place when he was wanted.” His last service was believed to be in January, 1905, when the “Ann, John and Mary” launched to the rescue of Matt. and Mont. Grunnill (who later became coxswain and second coxswain respectively to the “Samuel Lewis”) when their crab-boat, in which they were working off Skegness, was blown out to sea in a north-westerly gale.


Although he ceased to be an active member of the lifeboat crew just before the “Ann, John and Mary” was replaced by the “Samuel Lewis” in 1906, Mr. Hutson was shortly afterwards appointed by the Institution to the position of caretaker at the lifeboat house. He retained this position until about four years ago, his total service with the Institution thus amounting to the noteworthy period of nearly sixty years. During the time he held the latter office, he used to be in attendance with the “Samuel Lewis” when that lifeboat was drawn up on the Tower Esplanade on Lifeboat Days, in that capacity he had shown many hundreds of visitors over Skegness’s last sailing lifeboat. Despite his advanced age, he paid a special visit to see the new motor lifeboat “Anne Allen” when it arrived on its station two years ago.

As one of the oldest inhabitants, his anecdotes of the early days of Skegness were of particular interest to students of local history, especially insofar as they touched upon seafaring matters. On one occasion he told Mr. James Giles, the well-known local antiquary, that he once saw as many as 150 sail, mostly colliers, anchored between “Knock and Main” (i.e., in the Wainfleet Roadstead between the Outer Knock Sand and the shore at Gibraltar Point), practically the whole of Skegness’s coal supplies in those days being brought by sea from the Northumbrian ports. He related that the skippers and crews used to go ashore to the old Ship Hotel at Gibraltar Point, the anchored vessels being easily visible from the taproom window, as the outer sandhills were much lower at that time.


He spent his later years with his son-in-law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Horn, at 199 Roman Bank, Skegness, and it was there that he passed away last week. It is moving to relate that as this grand old seaman sank into his last sleep, his thoughts appeared to fly to the lifeboat he had once manned, and almost his last words, accompanied by a characteristic sweep of the arm, were “Pull her round! ”

He leaves five daughters and one son, and one of his sisters, Mrs. Lovel, of Old Bolingbroke, survives him.

Last Saturday’s service at St. Clement’s Church was conducted by the Rev. W. R. Dewey, and six lifeboatmen caried their old comrade to his last resting place. These bearers included three members of the present crew in the persons of Messrs. George Perrin (coxswain), Wilfred Perrin (second coxswain) and Bob Grunnill (bowman), and three former lifeboatmen in Messrs. Matt. Grunnill (ex-coxswain), Chas. Rose and Harry Rose. Other past and present members of the crew were included among those who followed.


A last request of the deceased lifeboatman was observed in that his Institution lifebelt was placed in the coffin and buried with him. The familiar flag of the R.N.L.I., as stated above, draped the coffin, on which also rested deceased’s peaked cap, these also being lowered into the grave. As the mourners were departing the lifeboatman paid their last tribute by burning a flare, turning from green to white.

The family mourners included Mrs. Simpson (West Hartlepool), daughter; Mrs. Halford (Birmingham), daughter; Mr. and Mrs. Gaunt (East Kirkby), son-in-law and daughter; Mr. and Mrs. Henry Horn, son-in-law and daughter; Miss Doris Horn and Mr. William Horn, Mrs. Saunders, Misses P. and L. Freeman, Miss K. Gaunt, Messrs. Frank, George and Fred Gaunt, grandchildren; Mrs. Freeman, sister-in-law; Mrs. Fred Grunnill, sister-in-law; and Mrs. Baker, niece. Mrs. Strickland and Mrs. Wheatman attended with many other friends.

Wreaths were sent by: Mrs. Horn (daughter) and family; Mr. and Mrs, Gaunt (son-in-law and daughter) ; Mrs. Simpson; Mrs. Halford; Mrs. Freeman; Mrs. Saunders; the Coxswain and Crew of the Skegness Lifeboat; the Chairman and Members of the Winthorpe Sick and Dividing Club; Mr. W. A. Dickenson; Mrs. Strickland; Doris and Willie; Grandchildren at Beverley; Grandchildren at Leicester; Grandchildren at Whitwick, Leics.; Mrs. J. Hutson (daughter-in-law) and family; From his old pal Jack Moody, and Mrs. Shaw; Mr. Geo. Hutson (nephew); Mrs. W. Horn; Mrs. Fred Grunnill; and Mrs. Baker.

The funeral arrangements were carried out by Messrs. Geo. Dunkley and Son, of Skegness.

The “Skegness News” is indebted to Mr. James Giles, of Syne Hills,” Seacroft, Mr. Matt. Grunnill (coxswain of the “Samuel Lewis” for 24 years), and Mr. Jack Green (an old lifeboat comrade of deceased’s) for many of the details of the late Mr. Hutson’s career which are reproduced above.

Source: Skegness News 20th February 1935


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