Town pays tribute to former Skegness RNLI coxswain

Tributes have been paid to a former coxswain of Skegness Lifeboat, who during a career spanning more than 32 years was involved in saving 246 lives.

Funeral for former Skegness RNLI coxswain Richard Watson.
Funeral for former Skegness RNLI coxswain Richard Watson.

The sudden death of Richard Watson at the age of 57 brought the RNLI family together from across the country to honour the local hero - in the presence of his devoted wife, Sandra.

It was an emotional scene on Wednesday when the funeral cortege for 'Watty', as so many fondly knew him, stopped outside the Lifeboat Station in Skegness for a few minutes so friends could pay their respects.

The town's RNLB Joel and April Grunnill Lifeboat, on which Mr Watson had served before he retired last year, was brought out of the station, with members of the volunteer crew standing on deck in silent tribute with 'caps off'..

Funeral for former Skegness RNLI coxswain Richard Watson.

Also stood in front of the lifeboat were other representatives of the RNLI from Hunstanton, Humber, Poole, Mablethorpe, Cleethorpes and Hartlepool - many now retired but who had dug out their gear to honour their friend.

Among other friends who had gathered were members of the Grammar School Old Boys, who sang the school anthem, Jerusalem.

Onlookers showed their appreciation with applause as the funeral procession moved off, passing other official respect points at Seacroft Golf Club, Skegness Cricket Club, Mr Watson's place of work.and Gunby Roundabout, where many others were waiting to pay their respects.

Mr Watson had spent 22 years as senior helmsman on the Inshore Lifeboat, resposible for crew training and the general upkeep of the ILB, before retiring from it in 2008..

Richard Watson was involved in saving 246 lives during his service with the RNLI..

He remained at the station as ALB Deputy Second Coxswain, working under coxswain John Irving and later Ray Chapman before he stood down..

During one of his shouts as coxswain, in February 2018, Mr Watson emphasised the importance of good teamwork while leading a six-strong volunteer crew from the town's RNLI lifeboat to assist a fisherman with a broken leg on a vessel in the lower Wash area, off the Norfolk coast.

The 25 knot Shannon took only 30 minutes to reach the casualties position where the Coastguard rescue helicopter was already on scene.

The crew aboard the helicopter lowered an operator and stretcher onto the deck of the lifeboat and the well-trained volunteers quickly came alongside the fishing vessel and two members of the specially trained crew went aboard to secure the casualty in the stretcher and treat any immediate issues.

Funeral for former Skegness RNLI coxswain Richard Watson.

After the casualty was taken for treatment at Boston's Pilgrim Hospital, RNLI Coxswain Richard Watson praised the excellent team work. He said: "The shout highlighted the capabilities of the Skegness RNLI lifeboat crew and their training. It also showed the excellent co-operation between all the agencies involved, especially the crew of the UK Coastguard rescue helicopter."

Mr Watson's last launch was on January 15 last year when the all-weather lifeboat was called by the coastguard to the Edda Passat, a wind farm support vessel which required a crew member with a medical condition bringing back to Skegness Hospital

The log states: "We placed one casualty care trained crewman on board to assess the casualty using the vessel's pilot ladder and then transferred the casualty and crewman back to the lifeboat and transited back to Skegness.

"Assessment's continued until the casualty was passed into the care of the ship's agent, who took him onward to hospital as the waiting time for an ambulance was four hours."

Grammar School Old Boys sang the school anthem, Jerusalem.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, only a few close friends and family attended the funeral at Alford Crematorium, at which Mr Chapman read the eulogy. .

The poem Sea Fever, by John Masefield, was read during the service, ending with the words 'And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over'..

The Skegness Standard was privileged to join Mr Watson and his brave crew on board the RNLB Joel and April Grunnill Lifeboat before he retired and videoed the ceremony outside the Lifeboat Station, which reached more than 34,000 people.

Here are just a few of the numerous tributes which were left on the post:

Mark Robinson: Reading this in Aberdeenshire. A lovely tribute by the lifeboat family for one of their own. RIP from a retired cop.

Shan Chapman: RIP Watty - a very touching tribute! There’s a big hole left in the town, a true hero and inspiration! I'll always remember your kind heart and big smile

Funeral for former Skegness RNLI coxswain Richard Watson.

Chris Maddison: RIP, what an amazing tribute by his fellow crew and the local residents. I hope his family find some comfort in the love and respect shown.

June Howard: RIP Richard. I was at another of the official respect points and so many people turned out to pay their respects.

Esther Scott: Well done to Richard’s lifeboat family for a lovely send off. Nothing but total respect for all of you.

Andrew Birks: Well done all the GS old boys for keeping it together during the singing of the school hymn.

Funeral for former Skegness RNLI coxswain Richard Watson.
Funeral for former Skegness RNLI coxswain Richard Watson.
Funeral of former Skegness RNLI coxswain Richard Watson.