Widow of Cromer lifeboat legend dies aged 96

The woman who was the 'backbone' behind one of Norfolk's most famous fishermen and lifeboatmen has died aged 96.

Kathleen Davies was the strong, supportive wife behind Cromer's legendary coxswain Henry 'Shrimp' Davies, whose courageous lifesaving feats earned him the British Empire Medal and an appearance on the national television show This in Your Life in the 1970s.

But his wife of 66 years was also a strong woman who cared for a disabled daughter, helped her husband over the death of his brothers in a seafaring accident, worked hard in the family crab and deckchair businesses and who loved being among her large family.

Granddaughter Katherine Wells said: 'She was granddad's backbone, who supported him through his tough times – the kind of great woman they say is behind every great man.'

Born Kathleen Arnup to farming parents at Rackheath on May 5, 1914, she was the fifth of 11 children.

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She left home at 14 to work as a maid in London and then at Cromer Hall, where she was introduced by a relation to young Henry Davies who was asked to give her a tour of the town.

They courted for six years and married in April 1936 – just before her 22nd birthday.

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The couple moved to Wellington House, in New Street, which was to be their home for the rest of their lives, including a spell as a holiday guest house, which generated many lifelong friends.

Kathleen helped in the family fish shop, dressing crabs and delivering them by car. Shrimp, despite his seafaring skills, failed his driving test on dry land six times.

Daughter Trishy was born in December 1936. Her twin sister Pamela died two days later, and Trishy suffered from cerebral palsy.

Doctors said she would not live long, but Kathleen cared for her until she died, aged 58, in 1995, always involving her in family life – including running the family deckchair business with her on Cromer seafront for many years when the family was depleted by the loss of Shrimp's brothers Frank and Jimmy when their fishing boat overturned and they drowned.

Second daughter Kitty, who was born in 1937, paid tribute to her mother's strength, style and love of having her family around her.

The family remember Mrs Davies as a caring person who spoke her mind and stoically got on with life whatever it threw at her.

Grandson John Lee added: 'Granddad would not have been the kind of man he was without her.'

Mrs Davies died peacefully on February 24 at the Highfields nursing home in Cromer, where she spent the last year of her life.

Granddaughter Patsy Lee recalled her dry sense of humour in her final days when the family at her bedside thought she had passed away, but she suddenly woke up.

'When I said: 'We thought you had gone to heaven' she said: 'I got there and didn't really like it. Cromer is much better so I've come back'.'

She leaves five grandchildren, 13 great grandchildren and two great great grandchildren.

A funeral will be held at Cromer parish church on Friday March 11 at 1pm, with flowers or donations to the Scope charity through Fox's Funeral Services at Canada Road, Cromer.

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