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‘The lifeboat was in his blood’ - Community mourns loss of local legend

PUBLISHED: 12:50 30 July 2020 | UPDATED: 13:17 30 July 2020

Derek George, secretary of Caister Lifeboat, who died on July 21, has been hailed as a true gentleman who always had time for everyone. Picture: Caister Lifeboat.

Derek George, secretary of Caister Lifeboat, who died on July 21, has been hailed as a true gentleman who always had time for everyone. Picture: Caister Lifeboat.

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A man who served a lifeboat station for 24 years has been hailed by heartbroken family, friends and colleagues as a true gentleman who always had time for everyone.

Derek George with former crew member Percy Griffen in 2017. Picture: Nick ButcherDerek George with former crew member Percy Griffen in 2017. Picture: Nick Butcher

Derek George, secretary of Caister Lifeboat station, died of cancer on July 21 at the age of 82 - leaving a gap in the life of the coastal village.

He had joined the station, where his ancestors had served as crew, in 1996, having been asked to do a “small job” by Harry Pascoe, a member of the original crew that saw Caister carry on after the station was closed in 1969.

It was a role Mr George fulfilled for the rest of his life, conducting lifeboat business until he was admitted to hospital a fortnight before he passed away.

The lifeboat was in his blood. His great grandfather Charles Bonney George was among the casualties of the Beauchamp lifeboat disaster in 1901.

Caister Lifeboat Station. Picture: Jonathan RingwoodCaister Lifeboat Station. Picture: Jonathan Ringwood

Mr George, a wonderful storyteller, would often recount how his ancestor was the only crewman not to be recovered within 24 hours, and how five months later his body was found washed up on Kessingland beach, only recognisable by the darning of his socks.

Over the years he told that story and many other lifeboat tales to thousands of people, taking great pride in giving talks on the history of Caister Lifeboat.

The highlight of his life was a trip on the River Thames.

It was 2012 and he stood on board the Caister Lifeboat in the pouring rain and with the crew saluted Her Majesty The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh in the Diamond Jubilee Pageant.

The Beauchamp lifeboat memorial. Picture: Caister Lifeboat.The Beauchamp lifeboat memorial. Picture: Caister Lifeboat.

With his family watching from Battersea Park, Mr George took immense pride in the lifeboat, its history, its day-to-day running and its future.

His role as secretary involved ensuring the lifeboat’s compliance with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, renewing its insurance policies and bargaining for the best prices for its utilities.

He also gave presentations, more than 600, to groups of adults and children who were invited to the shed, where they would perform dramatisations and operate the capstan.

Passionate about giving children and young people the best start in life, Mr George was a governor at the Caister Infant School for many years.

Older children benefited from his expertise in his career as an engineer.

He was chairman of the Norwich-based East Anglian Group for Industrial Training – EAGIT – which worked with many businesses to train young engineers.

At the age of 18, having completed his A-levels, Mr George served his apprenticeship with The Advanced Tool and Machine Company in Great Yarmouth.

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On completing his training he quickly landed a job at Laurence, Scott and Electromotors in Norwich, where he worked for 38 years until he retired, having become manufacturing manager under the ownership of MSI Defence Systems.

His knowledge and understanding of engineering never left him.

Whether it was making frames for the Caister Stitchers, of which his wife Vivienne is a member, to installing central heating to St Edmunds Church in West Caister, to building the audio story players for the Caister Lifeboat Experience.

His family has said that Mr George loved a problem because he knew how to fix it, and enjoyed the challenge and would always respond when he heard the words: “Derek, can you just..?”

Mr George died in the James Paget Hospital, aged 82, of cancer.

That day Caister Lifeboat flew its flags at half mast in honour of his sterling work over the years.

He leaves his wife, Vivienne, three sons and five grandchildren.

His funeral will be held on Monday, August 10, at 11am at Holy Trinity Church, with the cortege stopping briefly at the lifeboat station before the service.

In accordance with the government’s coronavirus restrictions, only family members can attend the church service.

Flowers from family only.

The George family has asked that any donations are made to Caister Lifeboat.


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