13th February 2020
2019 brings to an end the 5th year since the establishment of The Friends and another successful year, supporting the promotion, understanding, discovery, and heritage of the Lightship LV50 H Y Tyne III.
Our footfall and the reach of presentations have been substantially increased, further information boards have been installed and a replica carronade built and displayed.
The website has been extended and enhanced.
The Music evenings have become part of club life and the venue greatly valued by the performers
One of the most pleasing developments has been our improved relationship with the Port of Blyth STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) project, which has led to 351 school children being able to participate in a unique heritage experience and learn something of safety at sea.
In July 2019 Blyth Town Council recognising this historic asset to the town and the Port of Blyth, resolved to erect a Blue Plaque to signpost LV 50 and the RNYC as being of local and national importance. The Council approved the wording and production and two plaques are soon to be placed. There is a plan to produce a “blue plaque” online guide/walk, which will include LV50. This accolade has been made possible by the work of The Friends who generously give of their time and energies for the benefit of the numerous visitors allowing LV50 to play its part in the wellbeing of Blyth.
Following the RNYC EGM in March 2019 the club agreed to contribute £50,000 to the much-needed structural work of stern preservation, relying on cooperation of the Friends to help to secure the remaining funds. In August a strategy was developed by the yacht club, which recognize that to unlock funding from HLF a programme of community involvement concentrating on schools would be required. Fortunately, this coincided with our involvement in the Port of Blyth STEM project and our partnership with Steve Rutland. Steve has now been engaged as a consultant to RNYC.
The Friends, Steve and RNYC have worked together to develop an ambitious 2-year programme involving schools, teachers and pupils at many levels, to be led by The Friends. Together with the recording and communication aspects of the preservation project, which will allow the development of additional exhibition and communication materials augmenting the visitor experience, this is a unique opportunity for us to make a real contribution to the local community and to the education of children and the cultural life of adults in the area.
Such a programme would be impossible without additional manpower, I am pleased to report that a number of RNYC members with various useful skills have stepped forward following appeals and our numbers and capacity are looking much healthier to face this exciting time in the life of both the RNYC and The Friends.
Sadly, Lilliane Chan and Doreen Humble resigned their committee positions during the latter part of 2019. Both have played a significant part in the development and evolution of The Friends. We hope they will continue to remain interested. Both have been presented with commemorative, framed pictures.
Visits and Presentations
During 2019 we conducted tours aboard for over 570 members of the public (219 Adults and 351 children and their carers), these included prearranged tours, Heritage open days (5 days this year), open days during summer on the last Thursday of the month (6 days).
The school children together with their teachers and accompanying parents were from schools in Blyth, Hexham, Morpeth and Newcastle.
As in previous years most visitors were from around the North East and the UK and occasionally from other European countries. All of this activity required Friends involvement over a total of 27 days.
Very favourable feedback as always was received highlighting the perceived value of the vessel and how overlooked she has been in the past.
o Amazing vessel, a brilliant talk, this is important history in Blyth
o Excellent visit, a historic vessel worth preserving
o A ‘little jewel’ in Blyth Harbour.
In Addition to on board visits 4 presentations took place in various locations to a further 95 individuals (Local History Societies, Women’s Institute, Tyne industrial Archaeology Group).
Publicity and Promotional activity
During 2019 further visible clarification of the historical importance of LV 50 took place with the commissioning and erection of the RNYC Welcome board reflecting the 3 ensigns associated with her 140-year service life.
The discovery of a ramrod below decks encouraged us to research the carronades many lightships carried and subsequently to build a replica of the cannon standing at the entrance to Trinity House. 2 new information boards providing details of the cannonade and our lantern have been hung on the fence overlooking the ramps.
The Music Nights started in December 2017 and have been a feature on LV50 on an almost monthly basis ever since.
The artists who appear love the venue and their promotion of the events on their Social Media platforms means that potentially thousands of people hear of the ship. LV50 is “branded” as The Lightship on advertising and the word amongst the musical community is spreading with acts contacting us to ask about appearing.
The nights have been well supported and have become a welcome addition to the Social Calendar whilst also boosting bar takings for RNYC. These evenings have introduced the Club and the Historic Vessel to a wide audience.
The Music Nights now famous bottle raffle has been used for fund raising and has provided an income stream for the Friends – most of the equipment and artefacts used on school visits and open days has been bought with these funds.
A full calendar is already planned for 2020 with favourites returning and new acts to enjoy.
2018 saw the launch of the Friends of LV50 website www.friendsoflv50.org.uk during 2019 the content has dramatically expanded providing important information and reference material.
As well as our continuing focus on construction, research work has continued to better understand life on board a working light vessel. Additional material has been discovered in newspaper archives, books and photographs that have deepened our knowledge and provided material to exhibit to our increasing numbers of visitors.
Moving forward our focus will also be:
• On discovering who the men were that served on LV50 and the story of their lives
• The stern preservation work will allow an unprecedented recording of the deconstruction and reconstruction process and communicating this to a wider audience
• Identifying ways to better communicate this growing body of information.
Details of Funds raised totalling £1939 are covered in the Treasurers report.
As mentioned above, in July Blyth Town Council recognising this historic asset to the town and the Port of Blyth, resolved to erect a Blue Plaque to signpost LV 50 and the RNYC as being of local and national importance.
The Council have approved the wording and production and two plaques are to be erected in the next few weeks.
Relationship with RNYC
The Friends activities have been regularly reported in the club’s newsletter and appeals made for assistance and new volunteers. At the club AGM the Commodore paid tribute to our contribution and encouraged members to lend a hand, which has resulted in 5 new members so far (see below). This has also led to an increased recognition of the value of the friends to the yacht club. This is likely to be further expanded by our major role in the LV50 stern repair funding bid and resulting activities.
Jaqueline Toes, Dianne Carr. We have also received pledges of assistance from Ray and Susan McGinty, Brian Lowrey, Mark Batey.
As in past years, we will have the usual open days in 2020, 6 ‘last Thursday’ open days and the September Heritage Open Days whose schedule has not yet been announced (Usually 4 -5 days or part days). The calendar of speaking dates for 2020 is already filling up (4 bookings so far).
However, as part of The Friends involvement in the Stern Preservation project 2020 will be even more exciting than that. An ambitious educational programme, as part of the bid, is emerging. This will see 500 or more school children come aboard every year led by their teachers but supported by The Friends. Together with this initiative an “internship” for student teachers as well as a possibility for senior school students to acquire skills as part of our work is planned.
When the Stern Preservation project takes place, it will offer us an unprecedented opportunity to record/film and generally document a major conservation event of a truly historic vessel.
To achieve this all is well within the capacity of The Friends and we can all look forward to exciting opportunities to utilise and expand our skills in areas that we are passionate about.
The main areas are:
• Guided visits
• Research and History
It is envisaged that when during the project preparation we will hold a general meetings to keep everyone informed of these opportunities. More of this will be discussed at the AGM.
When these plans come to fruition LV50 and The Friends will be at the heart of an important heritage and educational development that enhances the Port of Blyth and Blyth town.