Keeping the Trust Afloat

July 2008

HANDY MEN … the restoration team, from left, Ted Smith, Peter Weightman, Gordon Brown, Abiy Shiberu Zegeye and Fred Crowell

ETHIOPIAN Abiy Shiberu Zegeye may be a long way from home but he’s found real friends among a group of maritime enthusiasts in South Tyneside. Since becoming a Friend of the North East Maritime Trust (NEMT) earlier this year, the 28-year-old asylum seeker has proved he is invaluable in the work to restore traditional sailing craft. The former merchant seaman spends most days working at the NEMT workshop in Wapping Street, on the riverside in Shields, gaining valuable experience and helping on other projects. These include the careful restoration of the Rachel Douglas, a traditional seine-net fishing boat which was used off the north-east coast. Abiy, a volunteer Community Connection team member with CSV Training and Enterprise North East, will be honoured by the Trust with a certificate of achievement at the NEMT’s first anniversary open day on Saturday. It’s hoped that more people will follow Abiy’s example and lend their support by becoming one of the official Friends of the charity, a core number of who have used their time and effort to start restoration work on the workshop and lifeboat. Alec Renwick, honorary secretary of the Trust, said: “Abiy has been a tremendous help to us in our restoration work, and I hope he feels he has made some friendships as well. He was one of our original Friends membership number 12 and we wanted to recognise his hard work and his enthusiasm for our project.” As well as saving and restoring traditional craft, NEMT is also keen to provide training opportunities to people. young and old, who are interested in the construction, care and restoration of wooden boats, including cobles or any traditional boats specific to the region. As I mentioned earlier this week, the Henry Frederick Swan, recorded by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution as being the longest-serving lifeboat in the UK, is currently the Trust’s biggest restoration project. Anyone visiting on Saturday can learn more about the interesting restoration projects the Trust has lined up. As well as restoring the 90-year-old Henry Frederick Swan to its former glory, the charity is also currently restoring a traditional north-east sailing coble, which will also be on show. South Tyneside Council is backing the NEMT by giving it the use of the workshop at a nominal rent. A feasibility study will shortly be carried out, funded by the Lottery Development Fund, to set targets and investigate the possibility of a long-term lease of the workshop. It is hoped that the charity can also shortly obtain funding to help set up its own website. Alec said: “Our members will celebrate the first 12 months of operation and to show visitors the kind of work we are doing in the workshop. We would love to meet people with boatbuilding skills, as well as those who just have an interest in the wonderful maritime heritage of our region and want to share their experiences.” The Trust’s workshop in Wapping Street, next to Fred Cowell’s, the boat builder, will be open on Saturday between 11am and 3pm. If you are interested in becoming a Friend of the North East Maritime Trust on the day, registration for annual membership costs 10, payable to NEMT Friends..


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