Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Fred Crutchfield

In the 60's and 70's Eric Lydon, the licensee of the 'Old Ship Hotel', and a very gifted artist, painted several paintings of crewmembers of the Swanage Lifeboat. In time these paintings were re-hung in the bar at the Mowlem, owned by Hall and Woodhouse. Sadly this bar is no longer being run by Hall and Woodhouse and so the pictures have been passed to us for safe-keeping by the families of the three men depicted.

Fred shown here led an interesting and slightly unusual life. Born in 1908 he trained and began his working life as a solicitor in London. At the outbreak of the second war he joined the Navy and went to sea on Minesweepers off the East coast of England. The war would seem to have unsettled Fred's life somewhat as when hostilities ceased he resumed work as a lawyer but in Swanage rather than London. Working for a local solicitor Fred lodged initially with Ron Hardy who became Coxswain of the lifeboat on Bobby Brown's retirement.

Obviously this proximity to the sea and lifeboatmen re-kindled his interest in the sea and so Fred joined the crew (I haven't been able to find out exactly when). In due course he became reserve Mechanic on 6th May 1957 and served as such until 14th September 1963 when he was appointed Station Mechanic. He retired on 12th April 1970. During his time on the lifeboat crew Fred not only served onboard the Swanage lifeboat but was also spent time delivering other stations lifeboats around the coast for repair and refit.

Thanks to our Chairman Robin for his research. If anyone has any further details to add to this potted history of Fred please let me have them as I'd like to add to this.


Anonymous said...

I must be older than I thought, as I can remember several callouts (one of them an all nighter off Bournemouth pier) when Fred was the mechanic, and I was a 'new boy'. Fred would sit under the cuddy (the only protection we had) rolling his cigarettes and keeping an eye on the various engine dials. He was a great character.

Dave Corb

lifeboatjohn said...

You are David...much older than you think you are!



Savage Family said...

A very interesting painting, bio and comment. It is fascinating to read, and one can only imagine how many stories exist within a lifeboat station.

Perhaps there's a project for someone there? A book on the history, characters and stories of Swanage lifeboat station.

Happy new year

Robina Dexter said...

I was at school with Fred's younger daughter, Vivien, in Colchester from 1955 to 1962. The family lived in Walton-on-the-Naze in Essex, then. I liked Mr. Crutchfield. He was a quiet man and let his lively wife and children take most of the limelight. He used to commute to work by train, dressed in pinstripes and bowler. Very smart. I believe he had a breakdown and the move to Swanage was part of the healing process, although I think that he had already become involved with the RNLI in Walton. I lost touch with the family after they followed him there, although I had some contact with Vivien after she graduated from art school in Bath. She went to France, where she married and had a son (and maybe more?). I have recently learnt that she and Fred's only son, Nick, have both died. His remaining daughter, Jill, was still alive in 2015.
I love the portrait of Fred. He looks so in tune with himself and his place with the lifeboat.
Your whole site is excellent.