Maritime 7: lifeboat
This is the first of a series of hand-painted magic lantern slides telling the dramatic story of a lifeboat rescue of the crew and passengers (the captain’s wife and child) of a sailing ship sinking in a violent storm.
In this slide we see the lifeboat leaving harbour, watched by family, friends and other anxious onlookers.
In the distance we see the stricken ship.
Magic lantern shows were a popular way to educate and entertain people in late Victorian times. The slides were projected onto a large screen as the presenter told the story.
A collection in aid of the RNLI (the Royal National Lifeboat Institution) was usually taken at the end of this show.
The glass slides are about 10cm square and have been beautifully drawn and coloured.
The crews of the Hythe and Folkestone lifeboats carried out many such daring rescues in Victorian times.
In this slide we see the lifeboat crew in close-up detail, wearing their bulky cork life-jackets. These would keep them afloat if the lifeboat sank or capsized, or if they fell out.
The coxwain is standing up at the stern (on the left). He’s the man in charge of the lifeboat and responsible for steering it with his long steering oar, while the rest of the crew row.
However, they are not the only people in the lifeboat. Look closely and you will spot the’ve already rescued the captain’s wife (wearing a red shawl) and child (the little girl holding onto her skirt) from the stricken vessel.
One of the lifeboatmen is standing up and about to throw a lifeline, to rescue the remaining crew from the ship.
The good news on this occasion is that the lifeboat rescues everyone on board and returns safely to harbour.
However this was not always the case, and many lifeboatmen lost their lives trying to help stricken sailors.
Here are the crew of the Folkestone lifeboat, the J McConnel Hussey in about 1900. They are all wearing cork life-jackets and woollen hats, which were red. Coxwain R J May is sitting in the second row, fourth from the left (in the peaked hat).
For the dramatic story of the rescue of the crew of the Benvenue see Maritime 1.
For more information on the history of the Folkestone lifeboat visit www.leshaigh.co.uk/folkestone/folkestonelifeboat.html