In her latest Face to Face interview, Karen Bethell talks to former Cromer lifeboat coxswain Richard Davies, who counts among his relatives local hero Henry Blogg.
In her latest Face to Face interview, Karen Bethell talks to former Cromer lifeboat coxswain Richard Davies, who counts among his relatives local hero Henry Blogg. A fisherman from the age of 14, Richard retired a few years ago and has since concentrated on dry-land pursuits ranging from horse and carriage driving to dancing . . .
As a student at Cromer Secondary Modern School, Richard, who was diagnosed with dyslexia in his late teens, found little to capture his imagination.
In spite of suffering from horrendously bad seasickness, he joined his father at sea aged 14.
Descended from generations of Cromer fishermen and lifeboat crew members, Richard can trace his roots in the town back to the early 1800s.
His great-great grandfather, James John Davies, who married the daughter of Cromer's first coxswain Robert Allen, served as coxswain, as did his great-grandfather, his grandfather, “Old Jack” Davies, and his father John “Little Joe” Davies.
Richard's extended family also served on the lifeboat and, in 1940, a total of 9 crew members bore the name Davies.
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His first “shout” was as a youngster, when he and a friend were stolen aboard and hidden in a rope locker by his father.
He joined as a helper aged 14 and became a fully-fledged crew member the following year.
Like his father and grandfather before him, Richard, who was coxswain from 1976-1999, went on to win a string of awards.
These included, in 1994, an RNLI bronze medal for the rescue of 5 people in the roughest conditions seen by the station in 30 years.
He met his wife Julie, with whom he shares a love of dancing, at West Runton, and the couple, who were named Norfolk twist champions in 1962, were married at North Walsham in 1964.
Richard bought his own fishing boat at the age of 20 and, in 1974, he and Julie opened their Garden Street fish shop, which Julie still runs.
Now 64, he retired from fishing a few years ago, handing over the reins to his son John, who is Cromer's current lifeboat coxswain.
Richard continues to be involved with the lifeboat as the station's deputy launch authority, and spends his spare time visiting horse fairs all over Europe; showing off his step dancing talents at local venues, and attending Norfolk Driving Club events with his collection of carriages, pulled by mule Molasses and pony Joey.
He and Julie, who have 4 grandchildren, have lived at East Runton, since 2002.
What is the best thing about your job?
As a fisherman, you can't beat a good catch.
And the worst?
A gale of wind - I have to walk away when I hear people saying how lovely it is to see big waves. For a fisherman, the wind could mean your gear at sea is being wrecked and, as a lifeboat crew member, you could get a shout at any minute as someone could be in danger.
What is the one thing you would save if your house was on fire?
I was a retained firefighter for 11 years, so I'd put it out!
Where do you go to unwind?
My sauna to relax and listen to some loud, preferably Irish, music.
What is your favourite Norfolk building?
There is nothing like Cromer church. When you've been away, especially at sea, you come over the hill and there she stands.
Have you ever done anything outrageous?
All the time!
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Nothing. I've got what God gave me and I'm satisfied with it.
What is your proudest moment?
I always wanted children, so I'd say having a son and a daughter - I remember running through the streets to tell my Grandad when John was born.
And your greatest achievement?
Three things: Being presented with my medal by the Duke of Kent in London in 1993; carrying the RNLI standard at the Royal Albert Hall remembrance service a few years ago, and singing Home From the Sea in front of Prince Charles at the Royal Variety Show in 1996. It was a charity song made by the comedian Jim Davidson for Caister lifeboat and the Caister and Cromer crews sang backing vocals.
Who do you most admire?
Everybody respected my grandfather. There was a presence about him, and if he stood on the cliff and said, “Well, we'd better be going to sea boys,” they would go.
Do you have any fears or phobias?
I don't like wasps.
What makes you angry?
How long have you got!?
Favourite book, film and TV programme?
Film: Captain Courageous with Spencer Tracy; book: anything that captures my imagination and on TV, I enjoy anything about nature or the countryside.
How would you like to be remembered?
I haven't gone yet!