17 January 2014

Newcastle Lifeboat and Rocket Brigades - OFFICIAL SITE

 Welcome to our ...
Newcastle Lifeboat and Rocket Brigades Memorial

“Our Heroes have been honoured”

“when men at call of duty take their lives in their hands, face danger and death, and achieve success in the task,
they ought at least to be rewarded"

"Well done !" ....... Newcastle Morning Herald, 28 May 1889. 

Courtesy Julie Murphy
A special message from the Convenor of the VLDF Community Group….

"This Newcastle memorial stands as a deserving tribute to those who served to save lives at sea. It is an outstanding achievement by all who contributed to making it a success, and they should feel proud of this fine result.

 We thank The City of Newcastle, the Newcastle Port Corporation, the Crown Land Department and the Newcastle Herald and Mike Scanlon for their continued support over the many years of campaigning. We are so grateful for their generous contribution.

A special thank you goes out to those who participated in the ceremony and the prayer service at Christ Church Cathedral.

Lobbying for a memorial began in earnest in 2007. The task was at times challenging, but meeting and listening to the stories
of the descendants made it rewarding.

Preservation of our heritage is important because it has determined
our unique identity. 

 Thank you to all who participated and contributed ..."

Bill Hillier December 2013

Please make a comment at the end of this Blog

Friday the Thirteenth was a fantastic day.

Courtesy Newcastle Herald Simone De Peak

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The commemoration of the memorial was held at 11am on Friday 13 December 2013 and it could not have been bettered, with some two hundred attending.

Courtesy Newcastle Herald Simone De Peak
Courtesy Julie Murphy

The ceremony, weather and attendance were perfect. Keith Powell, formerly of the Newcastle Port Corporation, was the MC of the event.
Courtesy Newcastle Herald Simone De Peak
During the service, the Chaplain of the harbour Reverend Garry Dodd, gave a prayer for the rescue crew members
who lost their lives trying to save others.
Several dignitaries were invited to the ceremony, and amongst those who attended were representatives of The Royal Humane Society of NSW (formerly known as the National Shipwreck Relief Society of NSW)
Major Roland Millbank MA MPhil JP, Mr Martin Matthews, Mr John McLennan.

Courtesy Newcastle Herald Simone De Peak
Officer Emma Tucker represented the US Embassy and Lt Stephen Dunne represented the Australian Naval Reserves.

Courtesy Bill Hillier and The Loscocco Family
The gold medal of bravery from the President of the United States was on display at the Maritime Museum.

Courtesy Newcastle Herald Simone De Peak
Several of our current rescue services were part of the ceremony including Naval Reserves Lt Stephen Dunne, Marine Rescue, Westpac Helicopter Rescue, Surf Lifesaving Association and Sea Scouts, and international rescue organisations were also acknowledged. Three flags (Australia, USA, RNLI) were displayed & held by Sea Scout Logan Coombes, Leading Seaman Christopher Watt and Ben Spencer.
Two descendants of the former rescue crew also took part in the ceremony. Cody Adams represented the Victoria lifeboat crew and Eric Pitt from Stockton represented the Rocket Brigades. Cody, who is the great great grandson of William Adams, wore a replica cork lifebelt and tam-o'-shanter cap like those worn in the 1860s. 

Courtesy Newcastle Herald Simone De Peak
 Eric, whose father James worked for the Stockton Rocket Brigades, had on display the Breeches Buoy.

Courtesy of Bill Hillier and Vicki Roberts

The Breeches Buoy was borrowed from Vicki Roberts, (Bill Govers' daughter), for the ceremony.

Courtesy Bill Hillier
Replica Cork Lifebelt

Bill had sourced the plans for the replica lifebelt from the RNLI(Royal National Lifeboat Institution) in UK. He converted the plans to a pattern which was then created from canvas by Graham Archer of North Gosford.
The cork was donated by Stephen Lane of Dunns Creek.

Courtesy of the Davies Family

A member of the VLDF, Tom Davies and his son Russell, then crafted the cork for the vest. Tom Davies and Bill had the arduous task of attaching
 all the cork pieces to the life vest.

Courtesy Newcastle Herald Simone De Peak

                                                          The official ceremonial ribbon was cut by Mr Bill Hillier (Convenor of the VLDF) and Dr Pamela Harrison ( Historian and author of 'Man the Lifeboat - Feats of Heroism and Endurance')

This memorial sculpture is an outstanding landmark and will stand proudly for decades. It will serve as a reminder of those who risked their lives in the noble profession of sea rescue.

Signage at the memorial site….
Their motto "Whenever duty calls"

Courtesy Julie Murphy
Courtesy The City of Newcastle

Courtesy Julie Murphy
The conclusion was marked by cannon fire shown in the above photograph from the historic Fort Scratchley.

Courtesy Newcastle Herald Simone De Peak

A water display in the harbour, by tug boats belonging to Svitzer Australasia.

The Ceremony at the Memorial was
enjoyed by all.


Cody Adams wore the lifebelt to the Newcastle Maritime Centre, where it was placed on a mannequin (alongside the Victoria Lifeboat) which was donated by the VLDF group…


The service at Christ Church Cathedral

Later that day, at 2.00pm, a special prayer service was held in the grounds of Christ Church Cathedral, to acknowledge those forgotten men, women and children
who did not make it safely to shore.

This service was performed by the Very Reverend Stephen Williams, Dean of Newcastle and also taking part were the Chaplains of the Harbour, Rev Garry Dodd and Fr George Anthicadu. A Scottish piper played several melodies during the service, verses to hymns were recited, prayers given, the consecrated ground was blessed and the whole service was very moving and appropriate.

It was a fitting end to a perfect day of remembrance


How this all began:

In 2004 Bill Hillier had taken a photograph on Stockton Breakwater of an old ship wreck and became intrigued with the many shipwrecks in the region.

Bill Govers from Belmont told Bill Hillier the story about the French barque named "Adolphe" which became stranded on the notorious oyster bank in 1904.
Govers owned the bell from the tug "Hero" which was involved.


This started Bill on his quest ... 

This is a Depiction of the rescue of the Adolphe composited by Bill Hillier 2004
The rescue of the crew of the French barque “Adolphe” by the Victoria Lifeboat in September 1904, was considered to be the proudest moment in the maritime history of the region. 
Bill set about locating the Adolphe bell in New Zealand and arranged for it to be loaned to Newcastle. The bell arrived in late August and went directly to the Regional Museum because the Maritime Centre was relocating.

Courtesy Newcastle Herald

The above photograph shows Lord Mayor John Tate with the owners of the bell, Margaret & Dennis Ruddell from New Zealand. The bell was unveiled in early September of 2004 at a formal ceremony in the
Crowne Plaza, and over a hundred guests attended.  

Bill then instigated a Centenary Service to suitably mark the occasion and the Stockton Historical Society
joined in the event which was held on
30th September 2004. 

Courtesy Newcastle Herald

The Ceremony for the ringing of the Adolphe bell was held on the Northern Breakwater. Paul Bevan from ABC 1233 is shown in the foreground conducting a live transmission from the event.
Some 300 people attended.

Courtesy Newcastle Herald

Bill had been successful in tracing some of the descendants of the former lifeboat crew, Toni & Alec Costa, Joan & John Crossley, Mary Loscocco and Christine Adams.

Courtesy Newcastle Herald

The bell was placed alongside the wreckage of the Adolphe and proudly rung by two of the descendants (Mary Loscocco and Alec Costa with Eric Pitt from Stockton directing the moment) at 10.28am, the time the ship
became stranded one hundred years before.  

This was a memorable day and a marvellous success...


The formation of the VLDF Community Group

 This group of descendants and their friends became known as the VLDF (Victoria Lifeboat Descendants & Friends) Community Group in February 2005.

Pam Harrison was persuaded to write the history of the former rescue services.

The VLDF committee had chosen Pam to write the history because of her dedication and determination to write an accurate account about the rescue services.
Pam's previous books were testimony of the quality of her work.

The VLDF began a strong campaign to create public awareness and lobbied for permanent recognition.

We were there for the relocation of the Victoria Lifeboat...

Courtesy Bill Hillier

We were there for the opening of the new Maritime Centre...

Courtesy of Newcastle Herald -  Joan Crossley October 2008

By 2009 there were over 100 descendants and
friends, together with their stories.

We were there for the Maritime Centre Silver Sextant July 2009...

Courtesy of the Costa Family
with David Shepherd as Antonio Costa

We were there at the Centenary for the rescue of the Alpena....

Courtesy of the Newcastle Library

On the 27 September 2009 the VLDF group held a ceremony at the Maritime Centre at Honeysuckle to remember the rescue of the crew from the US Schooner "Alpena" by  the Victoria Lifeboat.
The ceremony took place alongside the lifeboat display at the museum. This event in 1909 was considered to be the most gruelling test of endurance and the most courageous.
There were about fifty in attendance.

We were there for the recovery of the John Hunter Bell...
Courtesy Newcastle Herald and Patrick Robinson
The John Hunter bell was discovered by Keith Brakespeare in a scrap metal yard owned by B J Howes on the Central Coast. Through negotiations with the owner it was kindly given to The City of Newcastle at a ceremony in the Lovett Gallery.
The bell was accepted by the Lady Mayoress Katherine Tate and is in the care of the Maritime Centre at Honeysuckle.

We were there for the missing...
                              Ralph Snowball glass negatives.

During the search for information for the book, Bill went looking for the missing part of Snowball's collection. The search ended with Daphne Barney. Norm Barney had held back part of the Snowball's collection for reference material for future books. Following his death in 2003 the collections remained safely stored and catalogued.
After several weeks of discussion the decision was made to share these wonderful images. All the collections were to be given to the University of Newcastle. Bill then introduced the family to Gionni DeGravio.
In late 2008 the collections were moved with the help of Daphne and Geoff Barney, Gionni, Mike and his son David Scanlon and Bill Hillier, to the Auchmuty Library at the University of Newcastle.

Courtesy Mike Scanlon
This valuable collection consisted of 44 boxes of glass negatives including Ralph's note book (some 1100 photographs in total) some of these images date back to 1883, it is part of
"The Norm Barney Photographic Collections". 
Each glass negative was later cleaned, digitised and one hundred printed and placed on exhibition at the University Gallery in September 2010,
the event was called "Luminate"

You can view this collection by visiting...



We have been informed of the location of another part of Ralph's negatives and negotiations are ongoing. 

We were there for the discovery of the letters......
In early 2009, Bill came across a box of old letters, which were owned by Ross Boyd. They were in marvellous condition and gave us a fascinating window into the early years of Newcastle. These documents would later become the source of another book by Pamela Harrison called "Dear Will" letters to a boy sailor from Newcastle 1896-1897. 
“Dear Will”; Letters to a Boy Sailor from Newcastle


Researched & Edited by Pamela B Harrison


William (“Will”) Henderson was only 14 years old when he sailed out of Newcastle (NSW) in 1896 as a Boy Sailor on the three-masted sailing ship Scottish Lochs. His family and friends in Newcastle East wrote letters keeping him informed of local events and local identities, often embellishing them with little drawings and cartoons. The topics covered are diverse and include references to school, fashions, Federation, ship wrecks, Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, holidays at Belmont and the “Blue Mountain Murderer”.

 Will decided to leave the sea and returned to Newcastle in 1897. He treasured the letters for the rest of his life. His grandson, Ross Boyd, gave Pamela Harrison permission to transcribe and publish the letters. Back ground information and photographs have been added.

The letters give the reader a glimpse of life in Newcastle at the end of the 19th century.

The book are available and cost only $25 plus postage......

Dr Pamela B Harrison
PO Box 131
New Lambton  NSW  2305
Telephone (02) 49521168
The book is also available from the Maritime Centre at Honeysuckle

We were there for the recovery of the John Reid shipping Journals......
In early 2009 Bill was contacted by Bill Boyd about a large cabinet of shipping journals from 1930 to 1970. They turned out to be the John Reid shipping company journals. Bill's father worked for the Reid Company which ceased operations in the 70's. Unfortunately Bill Boyd passed away shortly after contact. 
In early 2012 Gionni DeGravio made contact with Bill Hillier. The University was undergoing a study into pollution and harbour operations in the past, believed that this information would be valuable to the study.
Bill Hillier then made contact with Graeme and Scott Boyd and the information was kindly given to the Auckmuty Library at the Newcastle University. 

The task to write the book......

In early 2007 Pam began collating information for the Lifeboat book.
Pam went back to the source documentation to verify the facts and create her book, 'Man the Lifeboat - Feats of Heroism and Endurance'.
The book was published in November 2009.

“This is a compelling true story about unsung heroes who fearlessly battled against the fury of an unforgiving sea to venture out into the blackness of uncertainty, to save lives”

This book is beautifully presented with
extensive cross referencing and can
be purchased from the
Maritime Centre at Honeysuckle

It is believed that this book contains
the most accurate account of events.



Push for the memorial...
In late 2010, the group began to push further for a memorial and shortly after, in 2011, Susan Denholm from the Strategic Planning Services of
The City of Newcastle, made contact with the group.

Courtesy Bill Hillier

In February 2013 the Victoria Lifeboat Memorial Project Group comprising of members from The City of Newcastle Council - Susan Denholm, John Waring, Ian Rhodes, Sharon Cameron, Newcastle Port Corporation - Keith Powell, Crown Land - Keith Southhall and the VLDF group Bill Hillier & Pam Harrison was formed to select an appropriate location and tenders were put out for the sculptured seat.

Susan Denholm was a wonderful facilitator and helped to motivate the team.
We hold a debt of gratitude to Susan for a job well done.

Jamie Sargeant was selected as the winning artist in May 2013.
Courtesy Bill Hillier

VLDF Official Photograph

Jamie's model of the memorial was presented to the VLDF in July 2013.

The making of the Memorial

John Morton Craftsman and Jamie Sargeant Artist
Happy at work!

Courtesy Newcastle Herald Simone De Peak
A very proud moment!
The sculpture by Jamie Sargeant was installed onsite in early December 2013.

"This stylised representation of the boat and rocket launcher evoke powerful images of guardians of the harbour. The 'boat' provides an intimate space for conversation, reflection and contemplation against
the panoramic backdrop of the ocean and harbour.

The larger than life rocket launcher sits alert, powerfully animated and ready for whenever duty calls."


During our task to collect this valuable information several people helped, or their families provided us with information. 

Unfortunately there are those who are no longer with us today.

Bill Govers, Norm Barney, Bert Lovett, Terry & Cliff Callen, Ross Craig, Percy Hunt, Bill Adams, Bill Boyd,
Dennis Ruddell, 

Our sincere thanks......


Newcastle Herald 16 November 2013…
(If unable to view the full article use slide bar at the bottom of the screen)

Newcastle Herald 12 December 2013…
(If unable to view the full article use slide bar at the bottom of the screen)

Newcastle Herald 14 December 2013…
(If unable to view the full article use slide bar at the bottom of the screen)

 Official invitation from the Lord Mayor of Newcastle…

Newcastle Star - 9 December 2013…
Bravery in Newcastle remembered
By Newcastle Lord Mayor Jeff McCloy
Dec. 9, 2013, 6:18 p.m.
Newcastle lord mayor Jeff McCloy

Newcastle Lord Mayor Jeff McCloy
SHIPS navigating their way through our harbour are a common sight, however, historically this was a journey fraught with danger and earned Newcastle a reputation as one of the world's most dangerous ports.
Hundreds of ships and lives were lost in its vicinity with the first wreck in 1800.
From 1838 a lifeboat and crews were on hand to assist ships in distress and this service remained until 1946.
They risked life and limb to bring sailors and passengers back to shore.
They saved hundreds of lives, sometimes at a cost of their own.
There were also the Rocket Brigades, who earned the name from their rescue technique.
A rocket launcher was used to send a rope onto the ship and those aboard were hauled ashore.
The brigade responded to the Susan Gilmore in 1884, the Adolphe in 1904 and the stranding of the Sygna.
The council's Place Making program, in partnership with the Victoria Lifeboats Descendants and Friends and Newcastle Port Corporation, commissioned a public artwork on Nobbys Headland to remember the rescue crew members.
Thanks must go to Pamela Harrison, author of Man The Lifeboat, for bringing to light this history of our city.
A sculptured memorial that represents the Victoria lifeboats and the rocket launcher has been created and will be unveiled this Friday, December 13, at 11am.
It will be followed by a prayer service at Christ Church Cathedral at 2pm.
The service will pay respect to those who lost their lives at sea.
 Program for the Commemoration Ceremony 

Victoria Lifeboat Memorial Sculpture – Celebration, unveiling and commemoration


Memorial Signage

The unique photograph was courtesy of Helen Schindler.
The text by Pamela Harrison and Susan Denholm and her team.
The artistry was by Peta Cooper from the Communication Department of Council.

Newcastle Herald - Missing Snowball Collection
September 2010
(If unable to view the full article use slide bar at the bottom of the screen)

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