PICTURES: Former RNLI lifeboat’s successful return to Llandudno

A PROJECT roughly eight years in the making achieved its objective on Tuesday (April 12) as an old Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) vessel was transported back to Llandudno.

Tillie Morrison Sheffield ON 851, which was stationed in the town from 1953 until 1959, was moved via a low loader from Deganwy Marina to Bodafon Farm Park.

Tillie left Deganwy at roughly 1.30pm on Tuesday:

North Wales Pioneer: Tillie Morrison Sheffield at Deganwy Marina prior to her departure on Tuesday. Photo: Debbie WarehamTillie Morrison Sheffield at Deganwy Marina prior to her departure on Tuesday. Photo: Debbie Wareham

Tillie is the only early Llandudno-based RNLI lifeboat remaining, and was the organisation’s first self-righting motor lifeboat with twin engines, and twin propellers.

She returned to North Wales after social enterprise “Ships’ Timbers” bought Tillie, discovered as an abandoned fishing vessel, from a classic boat owner in Hartlepool.

North Wales Pioneer: Tillie placed on the low loader at Deganwy. Photo: Debbie WarehamTillie placed on the low loader at Deganwy. Photo: Debbie Wareham

Since returning to North Wales, Tillie has also been registered with National Historic Ships, thanks to Ships’ Timbers.

Going past Maesdu Golf Club and Mostyn Broadway on her way to Bodafon Farm Park, she arrived at her new home at about 2.15pm on Tuesday.

North Wales Pioneer: Tillie arriving at Bodafon Farm ParkTillie arriving at Bodafon Farm Park

Tillie was built in 1947 at a cost of £10,573 by J.S. White, and measures 35ft 6in in length and 10ft in breadth, with an original weight of 7.25 tonnes.

She will not be returning to the water, but Ships’ Timbers still plan to restore Tillie to her original form as a former RNLI lifeboat.

Debbie Wareham, chair of Ships’ Timbers, the deputy mayor of Llandudno, Cllr Carol Marubbi, Llandudno town councillors for the Craig-y-Don ward, Cllr Frank Bradfield and Cllr Francis Davies, and long-serving members of the Llandudno RNLI station, were among those to welcome Tillie to Bodafon Farm Park.

North Wales Pioneer: Debbie Wareham (left), chair of Ships' Timbers, with others who came to greet Tillie at Bodafon Farm ParkDebbie Wareham (left), chair of Ships’ Timbers, with others who came to greet Tillie at Bodafon Farm Park

Following Tillie’s arrival, Debbie told those in attendance of the history behind the lifeboat and the reasons for her return to Llandudno.

She is to be a tourist attraction, and will enable people to learn about RNLI wooden boat construction, and the service history of the vessel.

She told the Pioneer: “To bring Tillie to Llandudno is an incredible moment, because she’s come back home. It’s been hugely difficult to get to this point, and we nearly lost her during the pandemic because we were struggling for funds.

“Llandudno is where she belongs. She’s going to be secured here, and then we’ll have indoor and outdoor exhibition spaces, and hopefully people can come and have a look at Tillie.

“I hope people will find a place in their hearts for her. She will be looked after and loved here, and be a tourist attraction at the same time.”

Tillie, and the platform she rests on, were then lifted by a crane provided by RRC Cranes.North Wales Pioneer: The crane attaching itself to TillieThe crane attaching itself to Tillie

Tillie was launched 17 times in Llandudno and saved eight lives, and was able to carry 30 survivors together with her crew of eight.

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After leaving the RNLI, she was converted into a yacht, and then a fishing vessel.

North Wales Pioneer: Tillie being carried by the craneTillie being carried by the crane

Tillie’s future plans involve:

• An engine being taken to Coleg Llandrillo’s Rhyl site, and kept on display for the students to learn about.

• A heritage consultant, Ian Clark, visiting Tillie to carry out a condition survey, and provide restoration options for the vessel.

• Costing the restoration of the vessel, explore funding options, and begin to seek funds.

• Deciding the conservation option for the vessel and planning the conservation programme as a grassroots project.

• Opening an exhibition space at Bodafon Farm Park and have interpretation boards next to Tillie.

Prior to her Llandudno return, Tillie’s twin engines were removed by the marine engineers from Conwy Boat Folk.

North Wales Pioneer: Tillie lowered by the crane at Bodafon Farm ParkTillie lowered by the crane at Bodafon Farm Park

North Wales Pioneer: Tillie resting after being moved by the craneTillie resting after being moved by the crane

For more about Tillie, go to: tilliemorrison.blogspot.com.

North Wales Pioneer | Llandudno