Efforts to trace descendants of Hartlepool trawler men saved in dramatic Holy Island rescue 100 years ago

A dramatic rescue operation that saved the lives of nine Hartlepool fishermen is to be remembered for its 100th anniversary.

Saturday, 20th November 2021, 4:45 am

Trawler the James B Graham struck rocks on the northern coast of Holy Island, in Northumberland, during a vicious winter storm in January 1922.

Despite the terrible weather conditions, all nine crew members were rescued thanks to the heroic efforts of the island’s lifeboat crew and residents.

The Holy Island Community Archive Group is planning to commemorate the rescue and celebrate the history of the island lifeboats with an event next spring.

Holy Island lifeboat the Lizzie Porter.

Organisers are working to trace as many of the descendants of the trawler men and lifeboat crew as possible to attend the ceremony.

John Bevan, from the Holy Island Community Archive Group, said the story of the rescue is well known on the island even today.

He said: “A number of the lifeboat men got medals.

“We’re planning to have a ceremony in April on the site where the lifeboat was launched.

The rescue took place off Holy Island. Picture by Jane Coltman

"We are desperately trying to find out the names of those crew on the Hartlepool trawler and hopefully be able to make contact with their descendants.”

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The James B Graham was built in Scotland in 1914 for the Hartness Steam Fishing Company, of Hartlepool.

It was about 8pm on January 15, 1922, when she hit the rocks off Holy Island.

The crew sent up distress flares that were seen in Holy Island village in the south of the Island.

Attempts to reach the stricken vessel with land-based equipment were unsuccessful as she was too far from the shore.

The whole of the village helped to launch the island lifeboat the Lizzie Porter into the freezing water, including many women who hauled her trailer waist deep through mud.

The lifeboat crew then rowed four miles through the storm but it was several hours before they could find a safe route through the rocks to get alongside the stranded ship.

An entry from the RNLI Journal read: “The trawler was found lying in a very perilous position, with a heavy list, and the seas breaking along her decks.”

All nine men were brought safely ashore at about 2am.

Anyone with information about the Hartlepool crew or their descendants is asked to contact Holy Island Community Archive Group by emailing [email protected]

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