SINCE its inception in 1824, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution has relied entirely on charitable donations to keep it afloat.

All these years on, that continues to be the case and a well-established network of hard working volunteers across the country ensure that there is a steady flow of income into central coffers.

The Maldon Branch contributes to that pot and for a town that has never had its own lifeboat station, the annual fundraising total is impressive and makes a real difference.

Records indicate that the earliest remittances from Maldon to RNLI headquarters occurred in the financial year 1952/53, when Jimmy Gozzett (1906-1974), one-time commodore of the Maldon Little Ship Club, was at the branch helm.

However, there is evidence that the town offered its support to the RNLI long before that – way back in 1907 in fact.

To understand how and why, we must start the story in 1886, and a major disaster which involved the loss of 27 lifeboat men.

They launched from Southport and Lytham St Anne’s (in Lancashire) and all were drowned when their lifeboats capsized whilst trying to rescue sailors from the stricken German barque ‘Mexico’, run aground in the Ribble estuary.

It still remains the worst loss of crew in a single incident and there was a public outpouring of grief and a consequent drive to support the work of the lifeboats.

In 1891 Sir Charles Macara, a wealthy industrialist, and his wife Marion introduced the idea of ‘Lifeboat Saturday’ – a fun, charity street collection.

Maldon and Burnham Standard:  Was this the winner of the best-dressed bicycle competition, which formed up in Silver Street. Photos: permission of Kevin Fuller Was this the winner of the best-dressed bicycle competition, which formed up in Silver Street. Photos: permission of Kevin Fuller

The first one took place in Manchester on October 10, 1891. It was a roaring success and £5,000 (well over half a million pounds in today’s money) was raised on that day alone.

‘Lifeboat Saturday’ spread to other cities and towns, including here in Maldon in 1907.

To evidence that local event, my friend Kevin Fuller has three very rare and fascinating pictures.

The first shows a long, snaking procession passing the Moot Hall. The clock stands (just like that in Brooke’s ‘Granchester’) at ten to three.

The town band (whose conductor was Frank Allen) takes up the rear and ahead of them is a float with a patriotic pastiche of Britannia and her maidens.

Further in the distance is the town’s fire brigade (under the command of Stephen Tydeman), complete with brass-helmeted firemen and their horse-drawn ‘pumper’ of 1877 (now preserved in Maldon’s Museum in the Park).

The High Street is lined with onlookers in their finery. The great and the good (including no doubt Mayor Krohn and other members of the corporation) stand on the balcony of the Moot Hall and there is a string of bunting across the road.

It would appear that part of the celebrations included a best-dressed bicycle competition for ladies and girls. They formed up in Silver Street (opposite Mayor Krohn’s house, now Maldon Court School) and the second photograph shows them outside number 21, on the corner of the junction with Gate Street and Beeleigh Road.

The competitors are again in their finest outfits, complete with bonnets, and their bikes are beautifully bedecked with flowers.

The third and final picture shows one of those lady cyclists (alas anonymous, but perhaps she was the winner?) with her competition bike on the Promenade. They are really amazing pictures – a remarkable survival of our RNLI heritage.

The RNLI’s report for 1908 (reflecting on the year 1907) reported on the continuing success of Lifeboat Saturday: “This organisation has done excellent work in collecting moneys…..the amount received from the Fund since its inception in 1891 to the 31st December (1907) having exceeded a quarter of a million.”

There is no doubt that Maldon contributed to that vast sum, both through the Saturday event and the lone collecting box at Maldon’s Custom House on Market Hill (under the watchful eye of Thomas Handley Barbrook, principal officer).

Nowadays the Maldon branch has very friendly relationships with the stations at Mersea (established 1963) and Burnham (1966), but back in 1907 the town’s associations were with Clacton (founded 1878).

The Clacton Station housed a “new” (commissioned in 1901) Watson Class SR lifeboat named ‘Albert Edward III’ (ON463), built at a cost of £1,890.

In 1907, George Jarat Grigson became its coxswain, a role which he performed until 1919, by which time he had been awarded the Silver Medal for bravery three times – exemplifying the RNLI’s motto (then and now) – “With courage, nothing is impossible”.

If you want to support the RNLI you can contact Maldon branch chairman Sue Woods at