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`Perfect present' as lifeboat secured.

Byline: By Robert Brooks

A mystery businessman has given a Northumberland harbour town the Christmas present it has been waiting for, by putting up the remainder of the cash needed to secure a new lifeboat.

There was outcry in Blyth when the RNLI axed the all-weather rescue boat Windsor Runner this summer, leaving the port's sizeable fishing fleet and visiting cargo ships reliant on neighbouring stations in the event of an emergency.

Volunteers immediately launched a major campaign to raise pounds 120,000 for a replacement lifeboat, and last month revealed they were in negotiations for a vessel which has operated from the village of Caister in Norfolk for 13 years. And yesterday, out on the town's quayside, Blyth Volunteer Lifeboat Service (BVLS) said they were delighted to announce that the sale had now been agreed, thanks to the intervention of a local businessman.

"Merry Christmas, Blyth, is the message from Blyth Volunteer Lifeboat Service," said John Tuttiett, who co-founded the appeal. "We are delighted to announce that Blyth will have its own all-weather offshore lifeboat on station early next year.

"When we launched the appeal for funds in August we said that if the community was behind us we would have a lifeboat by the turn of the year and that is exactly what has happened.

"We have passed the halfway point in our fund- raising and with help from a local businessman we have been able to finalise our negotiations with Caister Volunteer Lifeboat Service to buy their redundant lifeboat." And he added: "This has been a team effort from every member of our small committee, the two local authorities and the thousands of people from all over the North-East who have supported our cause."

Fellow co-founder Ian Woodhouse said: "The fund-raising is by no means over, this will have to continue, so we are now adopting the slogan, `We have got the boat, now let's keep it afloat'."

The businessman, who wishes to remain anonymous at present but will come forward later, said: "A lifeboat is an essential part of a big port like Blyth. We have quite a large commercial fishing fleet and a large number of pleasure craft in the river."

The lifeboat is currently redundant from active service. The boat will be going into a yard in Great Yarmouth to have some servicing and paintwork carried out and if all goes well it will sail into Blyth harbour in January.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Dec 23, 2004
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