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On the crest of a goodwill wave.

Byline: By Vince Gledhill

Hundreds of well-wishers braved bitter winds to give a warm welcome to a Northum- berland port's new lifeboat.

The offshore rescue craft, a privately-run replacement for an axed RNLI boat, was cheered into the River Blyth yesterday by waiting onlookers.

A rescue helicopter from RAF Boulmer hovered overhead and Morpeth Pipe Band heralded its arrival.

Piper Colin Smith, standing at the bow of the lifeboat which will be named Spirit of Blyth and Wansbeck, played the tune Wings as it sailed into the river escorted by a flotilla of a dozen other boats.

At the port's Dun Cow Quay the lifeboat, which formerly operated from Norfolk was handed over by Dick Thurlow, former coxswain at Caister, to Blyth Volunteer Lifeboat Service.

Ian Woodhouse, who helped found the new lifeboat service six months ago, was among the crew who brought it from the Tyne to Blyth.

"I have to admit that I had tears in my eyes when we brought her in," he said. "It was an emotional moment."

The volunteer service was formed after the RNLI announced it was withdrawing its offshore lifeboat from the town and providing rescue cover from Blyth with an inshore semi-rigid inflatable boat.

Mr Woodhouse added: "There has been a lifeboat in Blyth for 200 years and when they pull it away like that it pulled at the heart strings."

John Tuttiett, co-founder of the Blyth Volunteer Lifeboat Service, said: "She is here. We have done it."

The campaign to find and finance a replacement for the axed all-weather rescue boat, Windsor Runner, was launched six months ago.

"I thought it would take us a year or two years to get the money, when we started fund raising," said Mr Woodhouse.

But a mystery benefactor provided a loan for a large part of the pounds 125,000 they needed. Blyth Valley Borough and Wansbeck District Councils also jointly donated pounds 7,000 to the appeal.

Among the people waiting to welcome it was Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell.

He said: "It is a wonderful sight to see the lifeboat coming back to Blyth."
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 24, 2005
Words:352
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