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Tributes to lifeboat stalwart and 'singing bowman' who entertained Royal Variety crowds

PUBLISHED: 12:05 18 September 2019 | UPDATED: 12:05 18 September 2019

Percy Griffen pictured in 2007 with the former Caister lifeboat Shirley Jean Adye which is being restored 
Photo: Bill Darnell

Percy Griffen pictured in 2007 with the former Caister lifeboat Shirley Jean Adye which is being restored Photo: Bill Darnell

Archant © 2007

A seaside community is mourning the death of a lifeboat stalwart whose star turn as the "singing bowman" took him all the way to the Royal Variety Show's stage.

Percy Griffen with lifeboatman John Cannell  in 2007 on the former Caister lifeboat Shirley Jean Adye which is being restored 
Photo: Bill DarnellPercy Griffen with lifeboatman John Cannell in 2007 on the former Caister lifeboat Shirley Jean Adye which is being restored Photo: Bill Darnell

Percy Griffen's sterling service to Caister lifeboat was the stuff of local legend, taking part in daring rescues and continuing as a volunteer and fundraiser long after he stepped down from the crew.

His death aged 87 has saddened many in the village and a traditional lifeboat service including a procession from the boathouse to the methodist chapel is being planned to honour his proud connection.

Dick Thurlow, who served as his coxswain, said he was "a great character" who loved his home village and everything to do with the sea.

A keen shrimper Mr Griffen enjoyed being out on the waves, and later sharing tales of his adventures with visitors at the lifeboat museum.

The arrival of former lifeboat Shirely Jean Adye to Caister Lifeboat station.
Former lifeboat crew member Percy Griffen in 2005 Photo: Nick ButcherThe arrival of former lifeboat Shirely Jean Adye to Caister Lifeboat station. Former lifeboat crew member Percy Griffen in 2005 Photo: Nick Butcher

Among his greatest rescues was that of the lifeboat service itself.

In 1969 when the RNLI pulled the plug on the station he was among a handful who fundraised and put in the hours to keep it going as a volunteer rescue service - which is celebrating its milestone 50 year anniversary.

He hailed Mr Griffen's contribution, always delivered with good humour and a sense of fun.

There had been setbacks, he added.

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As a young man he found himself in Kelling sanitorium suffering with TB, and the loss of his great friend Benny Read in 1991 as a result of a maroon accident.

The death of Adrian Amis in the 1981 Happisburgh helicopter crash was also a huge blow, he added.

Fellow crew member John Cannell said Mr Griffen had died at home surrounded by his family after a short illness.

He described him as someone who was "always happy."

He said he was content to be around his home village.

During the 1980s he forged a strong friendship with comedian Jim Davidson which continued to the end, Mr Cannell said.

Mr Davidson, a long-term supporter of Caister lifeboat, took the crew under his wing shining a national spotlight on the lifesaving service.

It meant numerous appearances on local and national stages including an appearance on The Generation Game, Mr Griffen and Davidson always at the forefront of any action such was their chemistry and high regard for each other.

Caister lifeboat chairman Paul Garrod said Mr Griffen was an inspiration for today's younger crew.

He said: "It is a great loss to the lifeboat and a great loss to Caister.

"He was a fantastic man."

He leaves a wife Barbara, two daughters, three granddaughters and a number of great grandchildren.

The funeral arrangements have yet to be confirmed.

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