On and on he went, saving Mr Jacob Cresswell of Wrekenton from drowning at Short Sands, Tynemouth.
The crews of the "James Bales" and the French schooner "Les Trois Soeurs" had Joseph to thank for saving their lives. Because of the assistance he gave to the French ship he was awarded a gold medal from Emperor Napoleon 3rd of France. On the back of this memorable award he also received a silver medal for gallantry from the Board of Trade and a gift from the English ship's captain, a gold watch. The following year the crews of "Boucher" and the "Poulton" also received assistance from our local hero.
It is sobering to remember that between 1855 and 1860 alone, around the coast of Britain, 7402 ships were wrecked with a total of 7701 lives lost. Also remember that there was none of the modern equipment and boats used today. Joseph was casting himself, often alone, into our freezing North Sea with very rudimentary gear in hand rowed boats
Many more deaths would have been recorded if our lad from Sunderland had not worked so heroically to rescue all these people. Of course a lot of these rescued people were local people, possibly ancestors of people living in Sunderland now.
From now on details of Joseph become a little sketchy. It is recorded in the Newcastle Journal dated 15th August 1861 that he was reported to have joined the "Royal Navy Reserves" in Sunderland.
Just before leaving Sunderland in 1869 for Wapping, London, he saved a man from Coxgreen where his life saving career started. When reaching London, he worked for the "West African Shipping Company" as a model builder till 1888. He also applied for a life raft patent but didn't have the funds to register it.
In 1872, John Dean son of a pilot boat captain, was saved by our Joseph Ray Hodgson resulting in the award of a bronze "Royal Humane Society" medal. Eleven years later Joseph accepted an invitation from Sunderland’s Mayor where he was presented a gold medal.
In the 1880’s he volunteered and became a Fireman stationed at Walworth, London.
Sometime in the same decade he left for Australia where his wife tragically died. In 1890 he returned possibly alone to Limehouse, London. Nine years later he remarried at the age of seventy to Elizabeth Nimmo, fourteen years his junior.
Then on 15th October 1908, after pawning his eight bravery medals he died a poor man of pneumonia in a slum in Suffolk Street, Poplar, London, SW1 4HG.
So finally my saga ends, or does it? There are lots of grey areas in Joseph's life that need colouring in. If you have any information or pictures regarding “The Stormy Petrel”, please contact us at Sunderland Maritime Heritage and we will get it here on our website. Let’s try and complete this extraordinary man's story.
Thank you for your time and spread the word about Sunderland’s "Stormy Petrel", Joseph Ray Hodgson, one of our truly bravest local heroes