Morecambe Lifeboat Hovercraft Commander Harry Roberts makes final journey before funeral service

The funeral of former Morecambe Lifeboat Hovercraft Commander Harry Roberts was held today, Friday April 30.

Monday, 3rd May 2021, 9:20 am
The funeral car passes along Morecambe prom.

Harry died on April 13 at the age of 62 after a five year battle with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

As we reported earlier this month, Harry was 'Mr Hovercraft' at Morecambe RNLI and did a huge amount for the town, saving 77 lives during his 34 years of service.

Due to Covid restrictions his funeral was for just 30 guests, but his family invited anyone that wished to show their respects to stand along the promenade at Morecambe.

Harry Roberts.

Harry took his final journey along the prom this morning, travelling from his home in Heysham, down Heysham Road and onto Marine Road.

The cortege paused en route at Morecambe Lifeboat Station, where Harry devoted many years of his life.

His funeral service was then broadcast via a webcast link for anyone to watch if they wished.

The RNLI hovercraft which was such a big part of Harry’s life escorted the funeral procession, as he madeshis final journey down the promenade. Current and retired RNLI crew were joined by Coastguard colleagues in lining the promenade with heads bowed to remember all Harry has given to the RNLI.

The funeral car passes along Morecambe prom.

The flag of Morecambe RNLI Lifeboat Station flew at half-mast to remember Harry and both RNLI shops closed as a mark of respect to the RNLI stalwart.

Former Morecambe RNLI volunteer and current Blackpool RNLI volunteer Rev Adrian Wolton officiated at Harry’s funeral.

Harry joined the RNLI as a volunteer lifeboat crew in 1986 as a crew and worked his way up the ranks to become senior helmsman.

In 2002 the RNLI introduced the inshore rescue hovercraft to their fleet. Harry was involved in the initial building of the Griffon Hovercraft and the trials within Morecambe Bay. He went on to become the first volunteer hovercraft commander for the RNLI, then senior hovercraft commander at the station for several years.

The funeral car passes along Morecambe prom.

Harry was commander of the hovercraft the night of the Morecambe Bay cockling tragedy, which saw him flying the hovercraft for 22 hours. He was awarded an MBE in 2008 by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to maritime safety.

In 2018 Harry retired from his senior hovercraft commander role due to ill health. He then moved into the role of Deputy Launch Authority. Harry also retired from his role as station mechanic, a role he has held at the station since 1993.

Previously D-Class mechanic and since 2002 the hovercraft mechanic, this saw him look after the maintenance of the 'Hurley Flyer' and her transporter 'Spirit of Morecambe'.

Morecambe RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager Steve Wilson said: "Harry was the driving force in Morecambe RNLI and will be sadly missed. The flag of Morecambe RNLI will fly at half-mast today and as many crew as Covid restrictions permit will attend his funeral. As everyone will not be able to attend, respects will be paid in a number of ways as Harry makes his final journey passed the station, which will be a poignant moment."

Harry was married to Gill, and the pair would have celebrated 30 years of marriage on April 15. He also leaves two children, Hayley and Daniel, from a first marriage, and Amy, his daughter with Gill. He also has a granddaughter, Esmae.

Harry's family said: "We would like to thank everybody for their kind messages. We are all very proud of everything Harry achieved. People always called him a hero, which he never saw himself as. But we all agree, he was a hero, our hero.

"We are so touched the RNLI will feature so prominently as his funeral – he would have loved that."