ONE of the last surviving crew members of Whitby’s old rowing lifeboats has died at the age of 88.
James Gray Pearson, who was known as Jimmy, was a former lifeboat crew man and well-known fisherman.
He passed away on 27 January in the town’s Oaklands Nursing Home.
Mr Pearson, one of three children, attended Mount School before starting fishing in the 1940s and he still enjoyed doing this up until the age of 80.
His family said when he first started fishing, he told them of how they were only allowed to sail three miles out to sea, as they were still mine sweeping because of the war.
After leaving school, Mr Pearson joined the well-known Whitby coble, Silver Line, and it was while a crew member that he took part in a dramatic rescue which was reported in the Whitby Gazette at the time, along with its skipper C Eglon, his son C Eglon junior and WT Winspear.
The vessel was potting off Saltwick in the 1940s, when a British aircraft crashed into the sea on a particularly treacherous part of the coastline called High Lights.
Two of the crew clung on to to the fuselage of the aircraft while five others managed to get into a rubber dinghy.
In heavy seas, the Silver Line managed to get to the airmen, who were paddling into danger towards the shore, and they were able to warn them to turn back towards the open sea.
After a few minutes, the Silver Line managed to throw a rope to the stricken vessel and bring the seven airmen – five Canadians, one American and a Briton, who had suffered superficial injuries but were not hurt, to safety on the boat.
Their rescuers were hailed as heroes but Mr Pearson shied away from publicity and only fairly recently did his family find out about his role in the rescue
Around 15 years ago, the crew actually came over to Whitby and met Mr Pearson and he kept in touch with them by exchanging Christmas cards.
Mr Pearson served as a crew member on the old rowing lifeboat from 1946 to 1952 taking part in a number of rescues.
His son John said: “He was one of Whitby’s characters. He was always joking and had a family motto – if ever in a rush, sit down until it wears off. We all live by that.
“When he passed away, we came outside and there was a rainbow going out to sea and it looked like the rainbow was shining on the lifeboat station.
“He will be missed by a lot of people in Whitby.
“We all feel so proud of him.”
Mr Pearson, who was twice married and had three sons Gary, John and Alan, and an adopted daughter Susan, worked on the Silver Line for a number of years before joining other vessels as a crew member.
He also had his own boat The Atlanta which was a salmon coble.
He was well-known around town for pushing his bike, which he used to help him get to his favourite drinking haunts including the Fishermen’s for what he called his “medicine”.
He also enjoyed visiting the tea stall on the Fish Quay where he enjoyed catching up with old friends.
In later years, he was also a volunteer guide on the Endeavour which he took great pride in showing visitors around the vessel.
Mr Pearson’s funeral was held on Wednesday at St Mary’s Church at 1.30pm, followed by burial in Whitby Cemetery.
His coffin was carried by family and lifeboat men and a lifeboat standard bearer led the funeral procession into the church.