THE future of a lifeboat built in memory of a former Lord Mayor of Bradford is under threat.

Sir William Priestley, built in 1934, was named after a mill-owner and Bradford East MP who was involved in fundraising for the Spurn Head lifeboat, City of Bradford II.

Sir William Priestley was Lord Mayor of Bradford from 1904-1905 and owned Priestleys Limited, one of the world's largest dress goods manufacturers, which had premises at Laisterdyke, Thornton and Idle. The Priestley Cup was named after him after he donated, in1904, a silver trophy for Bradford Cricket League matches.

Priestley was chairman of the Bradford branch of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and patron of the Morecambe branch. In 1934, after his death, his widow donated funds for a lifeboat in his memory at Morecambe, known as 'Bradford by the Sea'. At its launch the boat was paraded up the Promenade from Morecambe to Heysham, watched by 20,000 people.

The Sir William Priestley lifeboat helped swimmers in difficulty, people cut off by the tide, broken-down speedboats and capsized dinghies. It took part in many perilous rescue missions of vessels in distress on treacherous Morecambe Bay. In 1960 the boat was used for seven rescues, including saving eight people from a sandbank about to be flooded by the oncoming tide and towing a fishing boat which had lost power when a net caught in its propeller.

Several replicas were made of the Sir William Priestley, provided by Morecambe Fishermen's Association. She was retired from service in 1987 and is in Lancaster Maritime Museum.

Now there is to be a consultation into the future of the boat, which is in poor condition and in need of restoration. Lancaster City Museums is holding an online meeting on January 25 to discuss, plan, and deliver "a fitting future for Morecambe's historic lifeboat".

Arnside Sailing Club, which is involved in the debate, is seeking any surviving relatives of Sir William Priestley to involve them in the meeting.

* For more details email Alasdair Simpson at

* As a Liberal councillor, Priestley municipalised Bradford’s technical college in 1898 and was Chairman of Bradford Council’s Education Committee. He was involved in Bradford Cinderella Club, which provided food and clothing for the city’s poor children, and was instrumental in the early provision of free school meals.

In 1914 he led the formation of the Bradford Citizens’ Army League that raised the Bradford Pals battalions.

He invented improvements in textile production and was senior Vice-President of Bradford Chamber of Commerce. He was a Trustee of Bradford Royal Infirmary and tradesmen's almshouses in Manningham, and funded Cinderella Club excursions for large numbers of disadvantaged children. He opened the charity's children’s holiday home at Hest Bank, Morecambe, in 1905.

Priestley was also Vice-President of the Bronte Society, and lent his collection of Charlotte’s pencil drawings, watercolours and letters.