Henry Freeman was born in Bridlington in 1835, he moved to Whitby in 1855 and by 1861 was working as a fisherman.
This vibrant portrait, painted by Harry S Horne, shows Henry wearing the cork life jacket which almost certainly saved his life in 1861. On 9th February during a violent storm, the Whitby lifeboat carried out five launches, rescuing crews from five vessels, Henry took part in them all. On the fifth launch the lifeboat overturned and Henry was the sole survivor. He was awarded the RNLI silver medal, also displayed in Whitby Museum.
Henry was the youngest of the crew and the only one wearing the ‘new’ cork lifejacket. The rest of the crew would have been wearing the old cork lifebelt which just went around their waist. Perhaps the older members of the crew were reluctant to wear the new jacket, they may have been wary of it or because it was much bulkier they may have felt that it impaired their rowing ability. An example of the old cork lifebelt can be seen as part of the Henry Freeman display in the museum shipping wing.
As we will be reopening our doors on Tuesday 18th May we won’t be able to continue with the Objects of the Week at the moment. We hope you have enjoyed them.