Memory Lane: The man who kept RNLI’s lifeboat ready for sea

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SOME things quickly come and go, becoming little more than footnotes in the history of the town.

Others, like Hartlepool RNLI, endure through all the changes around them.

ANDREW LEVETT looks back at one of the key figures in the lifeboat’s history.

THE sea is more than a vast expanse of chartered waterway to him. The sea is his job, his hobby, his life.

It’s always been that way, from way back in Edward’s schooldays when his father was keeper at the old lighthouse on the Town Moor.

So ran the Mail’s profile of Edward Wallace, maintenance mechanic of the Hartlepool lifeboat, 58 years ago this week.

One of ten children, Edward was brought up in the Prissick Street area of Hartlepool, attending Galley Field School, and on leaving choosing to go immediately to sea, like all his brothers.

Edward’s own sons – five from a family of nine – also had sea fever, with all but the youngest, a seven-year-old also named Edward, making their living afloat.

“He is beginning just as I did,” said his father with a touch of pride. “Tinkering about with steam engines and toy boats.”

Not that Edward wanted his boys to go to sea, in fact he tried hard to put them off: “I did want them to learn a trade and have something to fall back on but they chose the sea.”

One son, Albert, 16 in August, 1956, had already had a narrow escape on his first voyage in a fishing boat.

A rope knocked him into the water 37 miles out. Fortunately he was spotted, the boat returned, and Albert clambered aboard, unhurt but wet.

No doubt Edward had his own near misses during countless shouts over the years but may have been reluctant to talk about them, as the Mail’s article says he was awarded the RNLI’s bronze medal for his part in a rescue in 1942 but gives no further details.

Modest he may have been but the Mail reporter found Edward “extremely witty”. Of his children, he said: “We ran short of names in the end, and I almost started calling them after collier boats.”

Edward joined the crew in 1936 as emergency mechanic and became lifeboat mechanic in 1943.

Once a distress signal was sighted his task was “get the boat ready for launching, start the engine, knock away the chains and away she slides” – all in 45 seconds.

He could see the lightboathouse at Middleton from the garden of his Sussex Street home and “a caller can expect to find him polishing the brasswork, washing down the hull, or doing any one of a hundred jobs”.

When the Mail profiled him he was 53 and not looking forward to reaching 60, when he would have to retire from the RNLI: “But I’m hoping that someone might be able to find me a job connected with the sea.”

Do you have any memories of Edward Wallace you would like to share with readers?

Contact Andrew Levett by emailing andrew.levett@jpress.co.uk or write to him at Hartlepool Mail, New Clarence House, Wesley Square, Hartlepool, TS24 8BX.

ALSO IN THE NEWS IN 1956:

HARTLEPOOL was suffering its wettest August for 56 years, with 5.93 inches of rain having already fallen with four days to go.

In the same month in 1955 there had been just 0.95 inches of rain.

ICE cream sellers who played their chimes to attract trade were criticised by Sedgefield Rural Council for disturbing night shift miners’ beauty sleep.

Coun A Birbeck said: “If the men are woken up by an ice cream van it takes them a long time to get back to sleep.”

The council agreed to ask for a new by-law to make it possible to take action against ice cream sellers causing a nuisance.

THE Mail reported on an early car alarm, “an electronic device which gives loud warning blasts when thieves tamper with a car.”

Sydney electronic engineer John Bromely, the inventor of the device, said he thought thieves would be scared off by the unexpected noise.

THE Mail was puzzled by a reference to the town by actress Diana Dors after she took an unexpected swim at a poolside party she hosted for London hairdresser Teaszy Weazy.

She said: “When I came to Hollywood I hoped to make a splash, but not the sort of splash that seems to have made the front pages from Hollywood to Hartlepool.”

The Mail asked “Why Hartlepool?”, before answering its own question with a further quote from the actress: “How would you feel if someone made a monkey out of you?”

AN Air France plane stranded at Goudam, Sudan, by a burst inner tube on the tail wheel was able to take off again after the crew stuffed the tyre with sand, the airline reported.

NORMAL working resumed in the trim shop at Briggs Motor Bodies, Dagenham, after 500 workers had walked out in protest at working with a man who had refused to stop during a previous dispute.