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"The Chairman From Hell Gets One Stuck On Him at the Beer Festival!"

Leading Helmsman of the Redcar RNLI Station, Mike Picknett presents the Silver Badge to local RNLI Chairman, Tom Field

At about 9pm on Friday evening the search was on at the Peterborough Beer Festival! We were looking for the remainder of the half of the Redcar lifeboats' crews that had arrived earlier in the evening. Seven or so of the crew and a couple of their partners had been pitching their tents for the night before the serious business of Beer Festivalling got under way. These were the men and a lady who regularly take to sea on "a few square feet of Peterborough" - that is their "D" Class inshore lifeboat named Peterborough Beer Festival ! It was approaching the appointed time.

Mabel Field, had temporarily ceased counting pounds, pennies and brass buttons donated by the festival visitors to assist Tom in ensuring that he should look as photogenic as possible for the big moment that some of us had waited the best part of nine months to see. Tom was seated temporarily, in "ready use storage" waiting for the imminent fuss that was to be made of him. A plethora of flash guns and digital cameras were being tried out ready to capture for posterity (and the world's press it seemed!) the never to be repeated scene.

It had been decreed some time ago from Royal National Lifeboat Institution Headquarters (codename: "Poole Kremlin") that the widely known, loved and revered Chairman of the Peterborough Branch should be invited to receive the Institution's "Silver Badge". In accordance with the wishes of the recipient (who was so mardy that he said they could keep their badge if they did not agree to his terms!) this honour was to be presented tonight. This award is given in recognition of long and meritoriuos service by non-operational supporters of the RNLI. The Institution does not award these badges easily, it requires a minimum of ten years "hard labour" before the award of the Silver Badge will be considered.

As the evening wore on and 9pm approached, in a dark corner of the entrance pavilion at the front of the Beer Festival site, where all the devoted work of allowing the visitors the opportunity to part with their cash in support of the lifeboats both on entering and on leaving the festival takes place, a gathering began to coalesce. These were friends of Tom Field and his long suffering lady wife Mabel, friends and supporters of the Peterborough RNLI Branch, the world's press and media and one or two confused (slightly drunk?) festivallers passing by looking for a way out! Then the main protagonists, "the crew" presented themselves for duty and proceedings were commenced with voices needing to be raised to be heard over the clatter of coins into buckets which Tom would not allow to stop even for this event!

The Leading Helmsman of the Redcar Station, Mike Picknett, spoke on behalf of the crew and his station as he handed to Tom first the badge and then the neatly framed certificate. He explained briefly that they were honoured to have been asked by the RNLI to present to Tom it's "Silver Badge" and the accompanying certificate signed by the Chief Executive of the RNLI, Andrew Freemantle MBE (codename: The Decorated Gentleman from the South Coast). Mike went on briefly to express the thanks and appreciation of his colleagues at Redcar and the Institution as a whole to our beloved father figure whilst several other members of the crew were sticking it on Tom - the badge that is!

That left us now with two men wearing the same badge, for the Branch Treasurer, Quentin Bambridge, who has cared for the finances of the Branch since the change in our national currency from groats to shillings, let alone "decimalisation", was wearing his Silver Badge, awarded to him many years ago but worn tonight with just as much pride as that now glowing from every molecule of our Chairman's anatomy. In reply to the fine address by the Leading Helmsman, our Chairman expressed a slight suspicion that the motives of the Institution could have been a little mixed. Certainly he is a figurehead for tremendous and continuous support for the RNLI from the Beer Festival visitors, the local CAMRA branch, the City and people of Peterborough and the Local RNLI Branch volunteers for which this award signifies the Institution's gratitude. But Tom is notorious for seeing anything that tries to lurk under a stone and suspects that this may also represent a psychological attempt to placate a man well known as a "thorn in the side of them up there!". He will certainly wear this badge, received from and on behalf of the lifeboatmen he so admires, with great pride and so long as he has their approval, no-one else will persuade him to change his zealous and determined support for the lifeboat crews whilst still he has breath in his body!

All his friends and admirers would say sincerely " Thank you, Tom and you deserve to wear the Badge with as much pride as you have love for the lifeboats! We are all proud of you, especially tonight." 

August 2001

The Redcar Crew and Tom Field toast the occasion

On average, RNLI lifeboats launch over 6,500 times every year and save 1,300 lives.
RNLI lifeboats have saved over 133,500 lives since it was founded in 1824.