Lifeboatman Matt Grunnill Death

WE have to record with regret the passing of one of Skegness’s best-known beach and former lifeboat service personalities in Mr. Matthew Grunnill, whose death occurred at his home, “Dovedale,” Drummond Road, on Christmas Day.

He had been in failing health for some time, and latterly his illness reached a serious stage, so that the news of his passing did not come as a great surprise to a number of townspeople. He was 75 years of age and leaves a family.

“Matt,” as he was familiarly known to practically every resident and to thousands of seasonal visitors and excursionists, had a great lifeboat record prior to his retirement from the service of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution some seven years ago.

He was literally “brought up” with the lifeboat, and served in vessels of this type for the long period of 52 years, for 28 of which he, was coxswain. His knowledge of the work was partly inherited, seeing that his late father was coxswain of the Chapel. St. Leonards, lifeboat for 30 years, and “Matt” took his place in this boat when sixteen years of age. It was called “The Godsend,” but was replaced a few years later by the “Land- seer,” of which vessel Mr. Grunnill was second coxswain for several years. He then went to sea for a time as a member of a crew of a trawler but owing to the advanced age of his father lie returned to Chapel St. Leonards and took charge of the “Landseer,” holding this coxswain’s post for four years.

Being unable to command the services of a capable crew, Mr. Grunnill relinquished his post and came to Skegness, where he joined the crew of the “Ann, John and Mary.” The Chapel boat was manned by the Skegness crew as occasion required. He served for a time as bowman and then as second coxswain, and in 1908 was appointed coxswain of the “Samuel Lewis,” then two years old in the service of the R.N.L.I.


In 1912 Mr. Grunnill was publicly presented with a silver medal and diploma from the King of Norway for saving life. The Norwegian brig “Azha” was driven on to the Outer Middle sandbank, and the rescue of the crew of nine by the Skegness lifeboat constitutes one of the most thrilling chapters in local lifeboat history.

In 1916 Mr. Grunnill received the framed diploma of the Institution, this being the highest acknowledgment of that organisation for saving those “in peril on the sea.” It represented the recognition of Mr. Grunnill’s bravery and launching abilities in respect of the saving of the crew of a large steamboat, the Bogatyr.” which was sunk off Chapel St. Leonards during a violent storm. The launch in question was cited by Mr. Grunnill as the worst in his lifeboat career.

Finally, “Matt” treasured a framed photograph of five young ladies whom he rescued from drowning in July, 1920. On this occasion the rescues were effected by his small boat.

Source: Skegness Standard 3rd January 1940


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