SCARBOROUGH’S SHORELINE holds many happy memories for Ross Tyson, yet each time he looks out on to the South Bay he is reminded of one of the saddest chapters in his home town’s history.
The 82-year-old’s memory might be a little fuzzier than it was, but his pensive gaze across the sands suggests the passage of time has failed to erase his recollection of one of the tragedy which unfolded before his eyes there six decades ago.
And this December proves a particularly poignant reminder – as Monday marks the 60th anniversary of the disaster which killed three crew members in a terrible storm.
Coxswain John Sheader, second coxswain John Cammish and signalman Francis Bayes perished when the ECJR lifeboat overturned in turbulent seas.
Mr Tyson, Scarborough born-and-bred, was off duty from his role as coastguard watchkeeper on December 8, 1954 when the alarm was raised.
“The seas were very rough that day – exceptionally rough,” recalled Mr Tyson.
“The type of weather where you could barely see what was in front of you.”
The men aboard ECJR, Scarborough’s first self-righting boat, were preparing to return home after hours on rough seas and howling gales as they guided fishing boats back to safety. As the vessel neared the harbour mouth it was engulfed by waves with such a force that it capsized.
The ECJR turned straight back over, throwing five men into the sea in the process.
Mr Tyson, then in his early 20s, was among a group of people watching from the lifeboat house slipway who then sprang to action to save the men.
He said: “I could see they had started to make their way back when two huge waves struck it.”
Mr Tyson, now a grandfather, helped to pluck two lifeboat crew from the sea and passed them over to medics.
Soaked to the bone and shivering, he returned home to change into warm clothes as rescue efforts continued.
Later he would discover that 40-year-old Mr Sheader, a father-of-five, Mr Cammish, 55 and Mr Bayes, who was just 24, had died.
Mr Tyson, who later joined the lifeboat shore crew as tractor driver and head launcher, said: “When I came back out after drying off I got this terrible shock. I couldn’t believe it. It was very, very sad. Everyone knew them.”
Grief weighed heavy on the close-knit seaside community as it struggled to come to terms with the loss. Donations poured in for the families of those who died and the town fell silent on the day of the trio’s funerals.
Mr Tyson is proud that their courage, along with all of the other lifeboat crew who have lost their lives serving the local lifeboat, is honoured with a service every year.
On Sunday he will unveil a new plaque dedicated to their memories at St Mary’s Church, on a stone ledge on the fishermen’s aisle.
He hopes that the reminder of the tragedy encourages people to donate to The Yorkshire Post’s Christmas appeal to secure £200,000 needed for a ‘Supacat’ launcher for Scarborough’s new lifeboat.
Mr Tyson said: “It’s something that has never been forgotten, and it would mean a lot to be able to raise the money.”