The History of Criccieth Lifeboat

Hanes Bâd Achub Cricieth
 criccieth rescue
(This is an unofficial site - authorised by the RNLI)
Click here for the official RNLI Home Page
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The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is a voluntary organisation. It depends entirely on public donations.
Cefnogir yn gyfangwbl gan gyfraniadau gwirfoddol 

Much of the history outlined below is based on the present day honorary secretary, Lt. Cmdr. Peter L.Williams' booklet "Criccieth Lifeboat Station" for which I give acknowledgement. Any other stories, anecdotes etc. I will try to give credit.

The Official Station Website contains more details including reports on recent incidents, statistics of lives saved and assistance rendered by all the boats, over the years.

My family had a long connection with the lifeboats at Criccieth, though not recently with the inflatable/ rescue craft. I maintain my link, with the RNLI, as a voluntary governor, but am not actively involved. As a seafarer I have a great respect for all lifeboat crews, afloat and onshore and everyone involved in search and rescue. This page is dedicated to all these people.

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"Ein Tad cofia'r morwr

Rhwng cyfnos a gwawr

Mae'i llong ef mor fechan

a'th fôr Di mor fawr"

Eifion Wyn 1867-1926 
The Station Today/Yr Orsaf heddiw

Contents of this Website / Cynnwys y Wêfan yma

(Updated August 2000/ Ychwanegwyd mwy Awst 2000)

The Pulling and Sailing boats/ y cychod rhwyfo a hwylio

The Motor Lifeboats / y cychod modyr

The Inshore Rescue Boats/y cychod agos i'r lan

New Atlantic 85 boat in November 2008

Click here for some photos of the station /Lluniau'r orsaf

Notes and anecdotes etc / Nodiadau a straeon

Links to other Lifeboat web sites /Cysylltiadau i wefannau Bâd Achub eraill

Wreck and Rescue in Tremadoc Bay/ Llongdrylliadau ym Mae Dremadog.

The Pulling and Sailing boats {short description of image} y cychod rhwyfo a hwylio

In 1845 an American ship, the GLENDOWER, was wrecked on the bar. A local boat manned by the harbour master and three local master mariners put out and rescued the crew of 15. There was obviously the need for rescue facilities to cover this trecherous coastline and a lifeboat station was established in 1853 by the Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners Benevolent Society. The RNLI took over soon afterwards and based the lifeboat, the DAUNTLESS, at Criccieth.

An unnamed boat was on station from 1854-1867. The next lifeboat, the JOHN ASHBURY, served the area from 1867-1886. The period 1854-1886 coincided with the boom years for Portmadoc and the rescue service was kept busy. A total of 116 lives were saved.

From 1886-1910 the CAROLINE was on station. Nine lives were saved by this lifeboat. She was replaced by a reserve boat, the JAMES AND CAROLINE. On October the 13th 1910 the lifeboat was thrown on the rocks in the east bay while attempting to launch. Allthough damaged she was relaunched. On nearing the casualty she went on her beam ends and three men were washed over the side but quickly rescued. The lifeboat struggled towards shore and safely beached near the mouth of the Dwyfor.

The last pulling/sailing lifeboat, the PHILIP WOOLEY, served the area from 1911 to 1931. With the outbreak of the Great War, Portmadoc's trade was drastically reduced (one of the main destinations for the slate had been Germany). Several schooners were sunk by U boats. One of my ancestors, Capt Richard Cadwalader Jones, was lost on the Porthmadog schooner ELLEN JAMES in 1917. The PHILIP WOOLEY can still be remembered by older residents of Criccieth.

The slate trade steadily dwindled and by the 1930's there was very little maritime activity in Tremadoc Bay. In 1931 a motor lifeboat was stationed at Pwllheli, eight miles to the west, and it was decided to close the Criccieth station.

Click here for some photos of the Pulling and sailing boats 

The Motor Lifeboats {short description of image} y cychod modyr

The next twenty years saw little shipping activity in Tremadoc Bay. There was a plane crash during the war and minor incidents. On one occasion an Irish auxiliary schooner drifted into the bay with the crew dead having been overcome by fumes (cargo or engine?).

In 1951 an event occured that changed all this. A 27' ex navy whaler, used by a school camp, capsized about a mile off the castle. The wind was fresh to strong from the NE and, as it was September, the boats used in the tourist trade had been stored for the winter. A boat was hurriedly taken from a shed at the back of the Marine Hotel and run down to the west beach. Despite a heavy surf it was launched and three men crewed it out to the casualty. One boy was rescued but unfortunately five drowned.

This incident prompted a re-think regarding life saving facilities in the area and it was decided to re-open the Criccieth Station. In July 1953 the RICHARD SILVER OLIVER arrived and took up her station.

This boat was replaced in 1961 by the ROBERT LINDSAY. For a period, during 1964, she was relieved by the SARAH ANN AUSTIN.

 A change in the pattern of activity was taking place in the Bay. The last regular commercial vessel, the FLORENCE COOKE, which had loaded explosives at Porthmadog, ceased trading. Generating equipment for the Trawsfynydd nuclear power station was the last cargo (apart for some "blacklegging" during a Liverpool dockers strike). The tourist industry became the main source of income in the area and with it an increase in pleasure boating. Now yachts, speedboats, cabin cruisers and bathers became the potential casualties.

In 1967 a fast response "D" class inflatable lifeboat was sent to the station. The next year the all-weather lifeboat was withdrawn.

Click here for some photos of the motor boats

The Inshore Rescue Boats{short description of image} y cychod agos î'r tîr

The "D" class lifeboat was on station until 1983 when it was withdrawn and replaced by a "C" class. This served until 1993 when an Atlantic 21 took over. This was replaced by a larger Atlantic 75. A new, extremely versatile launching tractor was also introduced.

Press Release from RNLI November 6th 2008

There will be mixed emotions at Criccieth this week, as the RNLI waves goodbye to its current lifeboat, which has a proud record of nearly 300 emergency call-outs and welcomes a brand new state-of-the-art vessel. Criccieth is to become the second of the RNLI's 31 lifeboat stations in Wales to take delivery of a new design of lifeboat, known as the B Class, Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat. The volunteer RNLI crew at Aberystwyth received the same lifeboat last month.

The Atlantic 85 is the most advanced inshore lifeboat ever produced by the RNLI. It is able to reach casualties faster than the Atlantic 75 lifeboat currently at Criccieth and can reach speeds of up to 35 knots. It features state-of-the-art technology to enhance its lifesaving capabilities. The current Atlantic 75 lifeboat Mercurius has served the station well, with an impressive record of answering 291 calls, saving the lives of 75 people and landing a further 47 people from danger. In addition, a further 159 people have been brought ashore for their own safety by the lifeboat. The lifeboat has spent 294 hours at sea on rescue missions.

Click here for some photos of the inshore boats 

Notes and anecdotes etc.

  • In December 1854 Two clipper ships, The "Pride of the Seas" and the "Culloden", bound for Liverpool, ran aground on the Causeway. Click here for the account of the services by Criccieth and Barmouth lifeboats
  • In 1856 John Roberts was awarded the silver medal for his part in the rescue of four, of the crew of eight, from the brig CHARLOTTE which was aground near Harlech. Click here for an account of the shipwreck and rescue.
  • In 1881 two crew men were seriously injured and the lifeboat damaged during service to the barque MATILDA HILLYARD.
  • On 6th February 1885 seven men were rescued from the barque SPANKER aground at Morfa Harlech. Click here for a full account of the rescue, written by Capt. W.E.Williams, including a sketch of the incident. May 1998
  • In 1907 the lifeboat rescued the crew of the local schooner OWEN MORRIS which was washed into Black Rock Caves. Click here for an acount of the shipwreck and rescue (and photo)
  • In 1951 Robert (Robin) Cadwalader, Mathias (Thai) Williams and Will Davies received a letter of appreciation from the Institution for their part in rescuing one boy during the tragedy that resulted in the station being reopened. 
  • In 1977 the Thanks of the Institution, inscribed on vellum, were presented to James Owen, Kenneth Roberts and Robert williams in recognition for their service to the yacht ZIRCON aground on Porthmadog Bar.
  • On 31st July 1979 a boy fell off the cliffs at Black Rock. The crew of the of the lifeboat reached him but could not relaunch due to deteriorating weather. He was carried on a stretcher over the rocks to a waiting ambulance. A letter of thanks was received from the Institution .
  • 1991. A letter of commendation was sent to Kevin Owen who dived to the seabed to recover a body at Black Rock.
  • 1993. New side extension built on the station.
  • In October 1993, in a strong wind and a rough sea, two persons were rescued off the yacht LADY AMANDA aground on Porthmadog Bar. A Framed Letter of Thanks, signed by the Institution's Chairman, was sent to helmsman William Walker-Jones. Letters of Appreciation were also sent to crew members Paul Filby, Nigel Roberts and Steven Williams.

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March 2008 - Complete new section with my illustrated stories
Mawrth 2008 - Adran newydd sbon gyda fy storiau ddarluniadol

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