Sam May, local lifeboat hero

Sam May in his hut on Southwold Beach
Sam May in his hut on Southwold's Seafront. P630

If you visit the Alfred Corry Museum* at the Harbour car park, pause and wonder at the skill, strength and dedication of the men who crewed her in the harshest of conditions and the roughest weather to save lives.

Sam May was one such local lifeboatman. Born in 1860 into a long-established Southwold seafaring family, he spent much of his life as a fisherman. Between the ages of 27 and 57, he crewed lifeboats , and served aboard the Alfred Corry for the whole of its service life. He took charge as the boat’s coxswain from 1898. In the whole of his service he never failed to get the lifeboat launched and the lifeboat was never afloat without him.

Sam May Lifeboat Hero
Sam May - Lifeboat hero P629

There were many heroic stories: on 22nd December 1911, the Corry went to the assistance of a ship called the Beryl and, after many difficulties and nearly twenty-four hours at sea in gale conditions, got her safely to port in Faversham, Kent, nearly 70 miles from home.

Drawing of Sam May by William Fletcher Thomas 1923

William Fletcher Thomas, Drawing of Sam May,1923 - inscribed "in affectionate memory of Good Old Sam".

May died in 1923 having been a Town Councillor and benefactor of St Edmund’s Church, where a model of the Alfred Corry hangs above his seat.


*The Alfred Corry has its own website which you can visit here. You may wish to expand this window to view it comfortably.