history of polperro
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RYDER was a lifeboat based in Looe before she went on a long and at times difficult journey that eventually brought her back to Polperro and restored to her original condition. The restoration of this historic boat is dedicated to the bravery of the men who crewed her in those bygone days.

To keep RYDER in a sound display condition, the Trustees need to raise some £3,000 annually so please make a contribution in the collecting boxes in the museum and around the village.

Ryder on Looe River, 2011 - © Ian Foster, www.fozimage.com
Ryder on Looe River, 2011

Following the loss of the "Renovatio" with all hands in a fierce storm in late 1865, some of the residents of Looe wrote to the RNLI in April 1866 requesting a station be established in the town. This was agreed the same month, and a boat house was built in East Looe. The first boat, the "Oxfordshire", was sent to the station in December 1866. She was replaced in 1882 by the "Boys Own No.1", which served until 1902, when the "RYDER", with Edward Toms as coxswain, went on station.

The RYDER was built in 1902 at the Thames Ironworks, on Bow Creek, London, (opposite where the Millennium Dome has been built). Interestingly, some seven years earlier Arnold Hill, the owner of the yard formed the Thames Ironworks Football Club. In July 1900, Jimmy Caerns, one of the directors persuaded him that the club should turn professional, which they did, calling the new club West Ham FC. Their badge depicts crossed riveting hammers and their nickname "The Hammers" comes from this association. In 1998 the grandsons of Arnold Hill and Jimmy Caerns were still associated with the club as directors.

The Ryder lifeboat being launched at Looe, 1930 - © Rex Raddy Collection, Polperro Heritage Museum
The Ryder lifeboat being launched at Looe, 1930

The RYDER cost £835-17-0 to build, funded by a legacy from Mr. William Ryder, of Brixton, London. She went on station on 25th May 1902 and remained until the station closed on 31st July 1930. Looe and Mavagissey stations were closed with the arrival of motor lifeboats at Plymouth and Fowey, which were able to provide better cover.

Thomas Toms took over as second Coxswain in 1912, becoming Coxswain in May 1919, when his brother Edward retired. Henry Symons was appointed second Coxswain. During her 28 years at Looe she was called out on 12 service calls, saving 37 lives. Her most meritorious service was under Thomas Toms, on March 3rd 1922, when 21, including the skipper's 10 year old son, were rescued from the French Trawler "Marguerite", which had lost her bearings and gone aground in Talland Bay. The Marguerite was a modern steam trawler of 220 tons, equipped with radio. She transmitted an SOS, but being unaware of her true position, the Coastguard in Looe received a message saying she was aground on the Eddystone Reef. Looe was enveloped in a thick drizzle, the wind was strong from the south-west, with a heavy sea running when the RYDER was launched. About half an hour later a message was received from Polperro to say the trawler was aground in Talland Bay. The recall signals were fired and the motor Lugger "Dorothy" owned by Mr J Whynall put to sea and took the RYDER under tow to Talland Bay, so that she did not have to beat into the wind and sea. On arrival coxswain Toms let go his anchor and veered the boat down to the wreck, which was hard aground in amongst the rocks with seas breaking over her, a magnificent piece of seamanship. The story is told that a guard was put on the shore, lest any of her gear or the 50 tons of fish on board be "liberated", but that the locals, not wishing to let good fish go to waste, boarded her from seaward. Much to their disgust, the fish had been contaminated by the carbide used for the lamps and had gone pink!! To this day, at low tide, the boiler of the "Marguerite can be seen on the rocks in the middle of the Bay.

Last Ryder crew at Looe, 1928 - © Rex Raddy Collection, Polperro Heritage Museum
Last Ryder crew at Looe, 1928

With the closure of the Looe station the RYDER was sold out of service to a Mr Taylor, of Birmingham for £65.

Nothing is known about the boat from 1930 to 1958, except for two photographs, both dated 1932, from the collection of Thomas Toms, which show her on moorings in Looe harbour opposite what is now the Harbour Moon. It is not known why she was still at Looe, or the actual date of her sale to Mr Taylor. After she left Looe she was professionally converted into a twin engined cabin cruiser and renamed "HALMAY 3". In 1958 she was owned by a colourful New Zealander named Elliot Baker. By then she was moored in Bristol Docks and in use as a house boat, but was leaking quite badly, so to cure this Elliot built a brick wall across the bilge's! In 1962 Elliot returned to New Zealand, having sold the boat to Mr. J Haughton of Bristol, for £150. By this time both engines had been removed but the "A" frames and shafts were left in place. Shortly afterwards she was moved by rail to Weymouth, where the family had a weekend retreat, craned into the water and towed down to Ferry Bridge. To make her watertight and to cut down on maintenance, Mr Haughton coated the whole hull and upper works in fibre glass. On completion of this work she was moved to moorings on the Fleet side of Chesil Beach, where the family used her nearly every weekend through to 1987.

About 1978, she was badly damaged by fire when sparks from the wood burning stove in the main cabin ignited a canvas cover which was over the wheelhouse whilst it was under repair. There are still signs of this damage in the aft end box. In 1987 she was sold to a young man from Bristol and within six months she had sunk, possibly due to the failure of one of the hull fittings. She was raised and appears to have been left lying derelict on the beach on the Fleet side of Chesil Beach.

In September of 1987 the Royal Engineers based at Wyke Regis Camp were helping with a beach clean up, which included the Halmay 3 and since the owner could not be traced, she was to be burned. Luckily, Barney Morris, the then Hon. Sec. of the Weymouth RNLI saw her, thought she looked like an old pulling and sailing boat and contacted the Lifeboat Enthusiasts Society. Jeff Morris and Tony Denton travelled down and were able to identify her as the old Looe boat RYDER from her builders number. Lt. Col Ron Overd, who was at the time the commandant at Wyke Regis and by coincidence, a Looe man, organised her recovery to the Camp and then on to the premises of Devenish Breweries at Brewers Quay, Weymouth. Here, over a period of about 18 months, she regained her original outline, was cosmetically restored and put on display outside in Hope Square.

In 1994, through the Lions Club, her existence became known and that new owners were being sought for her. Steps were taken to recover her back to Looe, to go on display, but for various reasons this could not be achieved. In 1995 the Polperro Harbour Trustees elected to see if it would be possible to recover her. By this time the site she was on was thought to have been sold, and since the ravages of being out in all weathers had taken their toll, if a new owner could not be found, she was once again to be burned. Tony Pagett made several trips over to Weymouth, on behalf off the Trustees, to meet Eddie Dukmanton, who was then the general manager at Brewers Quay, and agreement was reached that the boat would be gifted to the POLPERRO HERITAGE MUSEUM. On the 5th April 1995 she was transported to the ECC jetties at Fowey, loaded on to the Bodinnick Ferry, and transported across to the yard of C.TOMS & SON LTD. at Polruan, for restoration.

Ryder pre-restoration, Chesil Beach, 1987 - © Mike Hillman, Polperro Heritage Museum
Ryder pre-restoration, Chesil Beach, 1987

"Project Ryder" was formed with the intention of fund raising and restoring the RYDER back to a seaworthy and original condition. Major funding has come in the form of grants from the European Regional Development Fund, The Heritage Lottery Fund, Westcountry Television, Caradon District Council, The Duchy of Cornwall, and the Cornwall Heritage Trust. Donations were received from local businesses, groups such as the Looe and Polperro Chamber Of Commerce, The South East Cornwall Tourist Association and from private individuals. Local fund raising was carried out by Project Ryder members and by a group of dedicated ladies in the village who organised coffee mornings, ran a shop and organised other fund raising activities. The original plan was to allow 12 months for fund raising and a further 12 to 18 months for the restoration. Funding went to plan, but due to contractual delays and the additional work that was required, mainly due to her time in the open, the restoration was not completed until 27th July 1998.

Ryder lifeboat restored, Polperro, 1999 - © Tony White, Polperro Heritage Museum
Ryder lifeboat restored, Polperro, 1999

On the 1st August 1998 she was re-dedicated by Dick Jolliff, a local retired fisherman and lay preacher. (Dick was a lad at school in Polperro at the time of the wreck of the "Marguerite" and remembers that they "skipped" school to go and see the wreck). The inaugural celebrations were carried out by Mr. Tony Bullimore, when RYDER was put on public display adjacent to the Heritage Museum in Polperro, where she can be seen from May to September each year.

In March of 1999, Charitable Status was achieved for the RYDER, (no.1074520) and it is one of the aims of the Trustees that the boat shall be displayed at suitable local maritime events and venues, so that a better understanding can be gained of these old boats and their operation.

The Standard Self Righting lifeboat was the mainstay of the RNLI for over 80 years and over 600 of this type of boat were built to various dimensions, seeing service all around the coasts of the UK and Ireland. Currently only three in the country have been restored to their original condition, and RYDER is the only one to be displayed afloat.

For arguably once the greatest Maritime Nation, far too much of our heritage has been lost for ever. We are proud that we have been able to save and restore this valuable part of Cornwall's maritime heritage for future generations to see.