William Riley



It was a surprise to get the previous letter from Mr. Yates on behalf of Magnay & Yates and it brought to the fore another disappointing aspect, but I guess not entirely unexpected. Given the implied threat action and a seven day time frame, I felt it prudent to answer in kind to the letter. I stand by anything that I have featured on my website and whatever has been added I have paperwork to back up my assertions. I have never flagrantly added information other than what I know to be factually based, and I can't be held responsible for other peoples actions.

Dear Mr. Yates

Having received your letter of the 16th instant I feel duty bound to respond, save only to address some of your statements yet reserve the right to give you any comprehensive explanation. With reference to my recent website submission I find nothing that is anything but accurate and cannot understand your problem, I have added it here for you to identify.

William Riley Official Unveiling

On the Sunday the 1st of June the former lifeboat Whitby lifeboat “William Riley” was officially unveiled to the public for the first time, after undergoing an almost complete restoration. After Saturday’s wonderful weather it was quite a disappointment to wake on the Sunday after a night of continuing rain. Despite the onslaught of non stop rain, around 100 people turned up to see the remarkable transformation of the William Riley of Birmingham and Leamington, which served in the town between 1909 and 1931 and was housed first at the Upgang lifeboat station before being transferred to Whitby. The lifeboat did not have a very illustrious career with 31 launches, saving 10 lives. It was though involved in one of the worst services undertaken by the RNLI that of the hospital ship Rohilla lost in 1914 with a loss of 84 lives. One of six lifeboats involved, the William Riley was taken overland to the Abbey Plain at a point adjacent to the wrecked vessel and manually lowered down a 200 foot perpendicular cliff face something that would be a truly amazing feat today even with all our technological advances.

The Dedication

The occasion started with the Treasurer of the Whitby Historic Lifeboat Trust (WHLT), who gave a monologue about the former lifeboat and its unique place in Whitby’s lifeboat heritage. Another of the trustees Mr. P. Thompson gave a short talk congratulating those involved in what was without doubt a comprehensive restoration project albeit singling out just one volunteer. During the two and a half year project there have been many volunteers many of which deserved mention. Two individuals who instantly spring to mind are Tim Hicking who has been one of the most committed volunteers contributing from the very beginning right through to the end whilst Michael Coates was to be commended for his craftsmanship His traditional woodworking skills were paramount in plugging many of the boats gaping holes, the calibre of his double planking work is second to none! It has been a demanding project taking the boat from almost certain destruction to a boat worthy of its place in Whitby's maritime heritage. The pace of the restoration has been frenetic and at times unstoppable, that is not to say it has not been an easy task. All those involved in the project from the start to its eventual completion are to be congratulated for their input little or large, it is a job well done. As a founding trustee I am pleased that I was able to play my own part in the restoration and see the William Riley as an integral part of the Rohilla story.

After a short speech by John Watson the HLF representative the century old lifeboat was officially unveiled by Maureen Goodwill, the wife of MP Robert Goodwill, which marked the culmination of two and a half year's of work. The trust responsible for over seeing the restoration reported costs of more than £20,000 which was primarily funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). To conclude the brief dedication the boat was blessed by Canon David Smith.

Afterwards the boat was transferred down to the marina were it was launched into the river Esk, some of those that had taken part in the project were given the opportunity to be amongst the first to row the boat. Seeing the satisfaction on Tim Hickings face was extremely pleasing, as he had put so much into the work.

The Future for the William Riley

In July, the trust has an adventurous plan to recreate the perilous 60 mile journey undertaken by the motor lifeboat Henry Vernon from Tynemouth to Whitby.

After seeing a film about a six strong group of drinkers from York who had travelled the length of Loch Lochmond on a pedalo, the local lifeboat press officer Peter Thompson invited them to participate in rowing the William Riley. The group who have called themselves “Ales Angels” are expecting to row 12 miles each day stopping off at various ports culminating with an arrival in Whitby during the Lifeboat Weekend on the 13th July and the annual blessing of the boats ceremony. It is without doubt quite a challenge; the lifeboat weighs around two tonnes with one of the hurdles alone being a tidal current of six knots. The lifeboat is equipped with ten oars and in poor weather the lifeboat was double banked with twice as many volunteer crewman.

With the restoration completed the former lifeboat is destined for a healthy future raising money for the RNLI, however, the trust is now looking for a permanent home for the boat and is keen to hear from anyone interested in seeing the lifeboat displayed at one of its venues. The national Sea Cadets have also expressed an interest in using the boat as part of doing the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme.

I believe that you have incorrectly identified the recent website submission as the text above is the latest addition; it is therefore conceivable that it is actually the text below that you find at fault?


Part of the problems we endured was a host of information that was anything but truthful, one such key piece being the alleged timeframes. It was always accepted that the decking was scheduled for September / October, yet for some unknown reason the ex chairman took it upon himself to change this to July. More importantly without the backing of the trust, and undoubtedly because it would rule out a tender able to carry out the work were the boat was even though it was common knowledge the tender had made it known he was away in July! There was therefore no question of there being any 'delays in finishing the job by the May/June deadline'. This ultimately left only one contractor, the one in Northumberland which the trust treasurer was directly connected to. There was never any question about their ability but that does not dismiss the underhand tactics used to award them the contract. The contractors list "The William Riley is an important aspect of Whitby’s history because it was the first lifeboat at the scene of the HMHS Rohilla boating accident in 1914. However, the lack of an engine made it practically useless in the rescue operation that day."

It should be noted however, that the William Riley, was not the first lifeboat at the scene when the hospital vessel Rohilla was lost and it is undermining to describe the tragic event as anything remotely like a 'boating accident"!

Reading your letter it seems you may have not been privy to e – mails that I have recently exchanged with your “Company & Financial Secretary”, Mr. D. Charlton. If indeed you were then you will see indicative explanations to some of the statements made in your letter, I would encourage you ask Mr. Charlton if he would share them with you.

Throughout the many pages that make up my website there is no mention of your company name, its address, or indeed your own personal names, I therefore dispute that wording on my website could affect your company and personal reputation? It is well known that capitalising text is used for emphasis (i.e. shouting or threatening) as such I would question it use for the bottom paragraph on the first page of letter, is there really anything to gain in using such emphasised text, I think not!

Taking your letter in its entirety I am prepared to amend selected text, however only where I feel necessary, amongst which I will delete the following paragraph;
The contractors list" The William Riley is an important aspect of Whitby’s history because it was the first lifeboat at the scene of the HMHS Rohilla boating accident in 1914. However, the lack of an engine made it practically useless in the rescue operation that day."

It should be noted however, that the William Riley, was not the first lifeboat at the scene when the hospital vessel Rohilla was lost and it is undermining to describe the tragic event as anything remotely like a 'boating accident"!

I will not however, post and maintain anything by way of an apology; something, which you seem to believe, is due? With the exception of the selected text above the information I have placed on my website is factual and I have a significant amount of paperwork to back up my claims.

Your Further Points

I am at a loss as to where you are going with your question about my ability to assess the standard of your work and your sarcastic remark about my being an expert? I cannot recall ever having questioned the standard of your work. You know only too well that I have not seen any previous work you have completed and therefore only think you have been led to believe otherwise?

This is quite a topic and one that has no bearing on your complaint! If indeed you are referring to trust meetings, then firstly I would point out they are private meetings or at least that was what I was informed of at the very last meeting I had as a trustee! If you have a specific complaint relating to anything discussed at a trust meeting, then identify the meeting. It would seem that perhaps they were not as sacrament as I had been led to believe?

I will though tell you outright that when your company was first mentioned in relation to the decking contract and thereafter nobody to my knowledge ever questioned the standard of your work. I might add that from what I can recall Mr. Charlton was the only one to ever raise questions with the HLF as to the workmanship of a potential contractor! In any charity if someone were willing to take up a trustee position it would be only natural for him or her to be fully aware of what was going on, this charity is no different in that aspect?

I disagree that I pay any great attention to what you deem to be “petty political games”, although I do agree with your political sentiment. Your comments about my promoting the project are ill founded, from the outset I had pages on my website dedicated to the project. I also took the time to write, e – mail and telephone anyone I felt might have been interested in the William Riley in an effort to promote the project. I also sent out a substantial quantity of photographs (not tatty computer prints) and promotional photographic discs at some cost and like Dave Charlton pointed out for himself; I never asked to be reimbursed for this service.

It may now be considered inconsequential when compared to the project as a whole, but without the lottery grant every penny counted. One of my endeavours facilitated a donation of £500 to the trust fund from a port authority with only a marginal connection to the project. I therefore fail to see how you can begin to consider I have done very little to help promote the William Riley? When I embarked on the project I was very fired up by it. In emphasising “MOST”, in your sentence you seem to imply your interest in the William Riley has always been greater than mine, you are of course entitled to your own opinion.

If you really believe that I am the only one to have expressed doubts about certain acts then more fool you. The only reason my behaviour stands out is that I am not afraid to make my doubts known and am prepared to stand by my claims. I pay lip service to your comments about non existent plots and schemes as the paperwork speaks volumes. I fully expect people to be delighted with the final product whilst being unaware of the ‘organisation’. However, does the fact that three trustees resigned their position as a result of all the questionable actions, and that the chairman stood down, not tell you anything?

You have questioned whether I “believe the rubbish I write”; unfortunately it is only taken from my experiences with the project and petty actions of those involved. I was of course at the official opening. I made every effort to get the best photographs despite the poor weather on the day. I asked the ex – chairman if he would gather the trustees present for a photograph, but his reaction was pretty much what I expected. If he could not be bothered to do so it is to the detriment of the trust, I have also been made aware on two separate occasions that he is somewhat annoyed my photograph made the front page? Does it really matter whose photograph it is, at the end of the day, it helps raise the boat’s profile.

Furthermore had I not taken the photograph the event may have merited just one photograph inside the paper, and you comment that I am making a bitter fool of myself? I have also submitted a report and with supporting photographs to numerous publications and know two of them are keen on placing it their publication, I cannot therefore do anything else to promote the William Riley and certainly cant be mentioned as not having helped promote the boat.

Respectfully yours,

Mr Colin Brittain

There is clearly going no easy solution to the animosity I get from two trustees in particular but the level of bitterness is nothing short of bizarre. As adults the ex chairman, Mr. Peter Thompson and one or two others seem to be letting emotions rule their heads. There is dignity in distance and whilst I have done my best to avoid antagonising things, it has had no impact on soothing things. I cannot understand the selfish behaviour which only serves to inflame an already troublesome set of circumstances. I would have contemplated trying to draw a line under what is becoming a twisted affair, however how can I when I am faced with such childish behaviour. I now have endless space on my server and can add so very much, if anything it will validate what I have asserted from the outset.

A New Level