Four members of South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade, who between them have clocked up over 140 years’ service with this local search and rescue organisation, have been presented with long service awards.
The awards are made in recognition of the contribution by members of South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade to the work of HM Coastguard. Over the years the four members have put in thousands of hours of training and have participated in hundreds of callouts in response to calls from HM Coastguard to assist in wide variety of search and rescue tasks around the South Tyneside area.
Two of the team members have received a Second Clasp to their Long Service Medal and a certificate in recognition of 40 years’ continuous service. They are Honorary Secretary Tom Fennelly, who has been a member since 1969 and Captain Martin Robertson who first joined in 1974.
Senior Captain Mark Taylor received a First Clasp to his Long Service Medal and a certificate in recognition of 30 years’ continuous service. Mark joined as a cadet member aged 16 in 1983 and has served as Captain since 1997.
Norman Jensen was presented with his Long Service and Good Conduct Medal having completed 20 years’ service. Norman is also Assistant Honorary Secretary and becomes the Brigade’s first recipient of the re-named award with a new ribbon.
All four were presented with their awards by Mr Adam Turner, Senior Coastal Operations Officer with HM Coastguard, who said that their combined record of over 140 years service showed a remarkable dedication to the work of the Volunteer Life Brigade and it represented an tremendous commitment to the task of helping those in need around the coast.
South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade was formed in 1866 to assist the Coastguard with the task of saving lives from shipwreck. The role of modern day team is to assist with all forms of search and rescue work still in conjunction with HM Coastguard.
Last year there was a major programme of celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of the formation of the Brigade. This was supported by a £55,500 award from the Heritage Lottery Fund. During 2015 there was a major programme of external restoration of the historic Watch House on the South Pier.
The Brigade has had a busy start to 2017 with 15 emergency callouts to incidents on and around the coast. Team members have been involved in rope rescue incidents when people have either fallen or become stuck on cliffs in the Marsden area, people who have been reported as threatening to jump from cliffs as well as searches for missing persons and boats in difficulty.
Next month (May 11th) the work and achievements of the Brigade will be given the highest civic recognition when they will receive the Freedom of the Borough of South Tyneside at a special ceremony in the Town Hall, South Shields.
“The last few years has been quite remarkable period in the long history of the Brigade, “said Honorary Secretary Tom Fennelly. “The latest restoration of the building, the 150th anniversary celebrations, the four Long Service Awards and the bestowing of the Freedom of the Borough combined with a healthy influx of new Members, gives great hope for the future.”
The Long Service Medal was instituted in 1911 after representations to the Government from the founding Father of the Brigade, Mr Samuel Malcolm, who was the first Honorary Secretary and later President in a remarkable span of service from 1866 until his death in 1935. He lobbied for an official national award to recognise the service of civilians who were enrolled to assist the Coastguard Service.
First known as the King’s Award it was first presented to Members of South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade in 1912 when 19 medals were presented. It then became the Long Service Medal and was presented to all members of the former Auxiliary Coastguard as well as Volunteer Life Brigades. It is still awarded to today with its additional ten-year clasps. It is now known as the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal with a slightly different light blue and red ribbon.