PEOPLE – PICKNETT, W.R. Last of the alarm boys

Accreditation Cleveland Standard 24/11/1934


Death Ends Career of a Gallant

William R.  PICKNETT

           Over half a century ago Redcar heard for the last time the beating of the drum sounded by the Redcar lifeboat “alarm boy”. That boy, the last to parade the streets of the town drumming out the crew of the lifeboat to do their duty was  William R. Picknett,  whose death (reported briefly in last week’s “Standard”) occurred last Thursday last.

            A native of Redcar, born in South Terrace, where he lived for the whole of  his 69 years, Mr. Picknett came from generations of fishermen, and throughout his life he was closely associated with the sea. He joined the Redcar lifeboat as a youth of 17, and before that was the “alarm boy,” whose duty it was to call in the crew of the lifeboat by parading the town beating the drum, a practice which was later replaced by the rocket system of alarm. He was the last of the “alarm boys.”

            As a seventeen-year-old member of the lifeboat crew Mr. Picknett had his first taste of duty when the lifeboat was launched to the rescue of those aboard the “Priscilla”

            This was the beginning of a career that ended Thursday night with the record of 44 years active service as a lifeboat man, during which time he had helped to save no fewer than 112 lives. His record was suitably recognised by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution when he was presented with illuminated vellum recording their appreciation. Mr. Picknett was ill at the time and the presentation was made privately at his home three weeks ago by Captain J. T. Shaw, secretary of the Redcar Lifeboat Committee. There was to have been a public ceremony later.


            Mr. Picknett started his “life saving career” with the old “Free Gardeners” lifeboat “Emma,” which was, in those days, stationed in what is now the old boathouse. The lifeboat was privately owned.

            He was about nineteen years of age when he had to go out with the lifeboat to what is considered to have been one of the worst shipwrecks known in this part of the coast. The ship in distress was the “Semarang,” and it had got into difficulties in wild seas off Saltburn. The lifeboat of the Institution at Redcar, the Free Gardeners’ and the Saltburn boat went out and 14 lives were saved.

Mr. Picknett received his training with the privately owned “Emma,” and before joining the Institution crew he had helped to save some scores of lives.

            It is difficult to estimate the number of lives he has actually saved or helped to save, as his role as a life-saver included what would have been called “petty rescues” of bathers in difficulties and people stranded on the rocks, cut off by the tide. Of these incidents no records were kept and it is safe to say that over 200 people owed their lives to the pluck of Mr. Picknett.

            As a fisherman Mr. Picknett had his own life to save on several occasions. He was one of the men in the tragic fishing disaster of a few years ago when the crews of two fishing cobbles, six fishermen in all, were drowned. He and his two mates managed to get ashore at Marske.

            In January, 1901, Mr. Picknett and 6 other fishermen were going out to assist a trawler near Marske when their boat capsized. Three men were drowned Mr. Picknett was one of the four who were saved.

            Mr. Picknett after took part in sea rescue with his brother in an ordinary fishing cobble before coming a member of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution crew.


            With full honours accorded by the R.N.L.I. the funeral of the ‘gallant gentleman’ took place at Redcar. The service was held at the Parish Church on 22nd, January, 1934, and internment at Redcar Cemetery. The coffin was covered with a R.N.L.I. flag pennant whilst outside the Lifeboat Station was at half mast.

             The cortege head was led by the Coastguards followed by crews of the Redcar & Teesmouth Lifeboats.

             A notable figure at the funeral was Mr. Thomas Robin Picknett, uncle of the dead man, who was now nearing his 90th birthday. He was a member of the Lifeboat crew for a very long period.








































































dean March 21, 2010 People & Characters