Mystery woman donates �525,000 to Caister volunteer lifeboat

A MYSTERY woman has left a massive �525,000 legacy to Caister Volunteer Lifeboat.

It is their biggest ever donation and comes from the will of a London woman who first befriended a Caister man in the 1940s and who often spoke to her of the gallantry and rescues of the charity.

Ethel Crouther bequeathed the money in memory of her friend, Freddie Dyball, who worked on the beaches at Scratby, California and Winterton.

Caister lifeboat chairman Paul Garrod revealed they were first told of a possible legacy three months, and a hadn't a clue who the benefactor was.

He said: 'Apparently Mrs Crouther was very friendly with Freddie Dyball and she left us the money in his memory. Freddie was good friends with Skipper Woodhouse, who launched the independent lifeboat after the RNLI withdrew in 1969.'

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Mrs Crouther died on July 21, 2010, aged 89. She had owned a house in Ilford and a second home in California Crescent, Scratby.

A widow, she had had one son who had died before her and no immediate family.

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In 1969, after 124 years of a lifeboat station at Caister the RNLI decided to close the station and there was public outcry as Caister held the record for the most lives saved by any lifeboat station in the British Isles.

The crew, which was led by the veteran mechanic Skipper Woodhouse decided to have their own independent station.

Mr Garrod said the bequest would be put towards a new offshore lifeboat.

'It's the biggest legacy we have ever had,' Paul added.

'The money will go towards starting the appeal for the new lifeboat. We won't need another one for at least five or six years but it's customary that the boat is named after the biggest benefactor.'

In her will, Mrs Crouther requested that the boat is named after Freddie Dyball, who she met in the 1940s.

'I am absolutely over the moon. It's for the crew today but it's also for the people who started the lifeboat as well. It's a credit to them.

'If it wasn't for those who started it in 1969 we wouldn't be here today - it's for them as well,' Paul said.

'It's a huge amount of money but we must not forget a new lifeboat costs around �2m so there's still a lot of fundraising to do.

'We would like to thank her for such a wonderful gift. One day it will help us to save more lives at sea.'

Caister is the only independent station in the country to operate with a full size lifeboat.

The current boat, the Bernard Matthews II, was built in 2004 and was launched in 2005.

It cost just over �450,000 and can reach speeds of up to 37 knots.

The Dutch built Valentijn, which slashed response times by more than half, replaced The Bernard Matthews lifeboat, which had been in operation for 12 years.

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