South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade is to receive one of the most prestigious civic awards in South Tyneside – the Freedom of the Borough.The organisation, who celebrated the 150th anniversary of its formation last year, will be awarded in recognition of their outstanding contribution to the Borough in saving many hundreds of lives through the valiant efforts of their volunteers.

The Freedom of the Borough is a rare honour. The Brigade will be just the tenth organisation or individuals to receive this prestigious award since 1981.

Officers of South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade pictured with the Mayor and Mayoress of South Tyneside at the Council meeting which agreed to bestow the Freedom of the Borough

Officers of South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade pictured with the Mayor and Mayoress of South Tyneside at the Council meeting which agreed to bestow the Freedom of the Borough

Councillor Alan Smith, Mayor of South Tyneside said: “The selfless individuals who have served in the Brigade are a credit to South Tyneside and I am delighted that the organisation is to receive for Freedom of the Borough – the highest honour to be bestowed on any individual or organisation. “Throughout its long and unbroken record of lifesaving service South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade is credited with having saved over 600 lives from shipwreck, it really has made a huge difference to the lives of many people.” The Borough’s volunteer life brigade provides a 24-hour coastal search and rescue back-up in conjunction with HM Coastguard, RNLI lifeboats and other emergency services. It was officially formed on January 30, 1866, to help the coastguard prevent loss of life on the south side of the River Tyne and the coast as far as Whitburn. It was the first organisation in the world to use the breeches buoy to save lives from a shipwreck. Every day since its formation the brigade has been ready 24hours a day, 365 days a year, to help those in peril on the sea, along with the HM Coastguard, RNLI lifeboats and other emergency services. At an extraordinary meeting of the Council on Thursday 9th March 2017 a resolution to bestow the Freedom of the Borough on the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade was unanimously agreed. Mr Tom Fennelly, long serving Honorary Secretary of the South Shields Volunteer Brigade said: “It is with immense pride, in the achievements and work of the Brigade since its formation in 1866 and right up to the present day, that Officers and Members are greatly honoured to have been nominated for the award of the Freedom of Borough of South Tyneside. “We are deeply conscious of the significance of this the highest accolade which South Tyneside Council can bestow on its citizens and organisations. It is a great tribute to those hundreds of people across the decades, since 1866, who have given so freely and willingly of their time in the service of others. “Today’s Members of the Volunteer Life Brigade are the latest links in an unbroken line of service which provides a 24-hour on-call search and rescue backup facility with HM Coastguard. We work in partnership with all the other emergency services and we are proud to play a key role in providing lifesaving capability in the local community”. A formal ceremony to mark the occasion will be set for later this year