“The Stormy Petrel” by  Sunderland Maritime Heritage.


This journey of mine started back in 2005 when a certain lady, Christine Sexton of Oxfordshire, paid a visit to Sunderland R.N.L.I and spoke to chief mechanic Hefin Roberts regarding her great, great, grandfather Joseph Ray Hodgson (The Stormy Petrel).


She was trying to raise the profile of Sunderland’s (if not Great Britain’s) greatest peacetime hero.  So it seemed quite natural to her to approach the RNLI to see if she could obtain more information, but unfortunately this was to no avail.  As I was a member of the RNLI, this is when I first heard of Joseph Ray Hodgson.  For various reasons I put it on a back burner making a promise to myself that I would research the "Stormy Petrel" at a later date, and now that time has arrived.


Regarding Joseph Ray Hodgson’s nickname "Stormy Petrel", it seems that in the past it was a phrase that used to mean "trouble brewing".  The seabird from which his nickname was derived is the storm petrel.  It was rumoured that when bad weather was brewing out at sea, the storm petrel was the last species of bird to return to land. It was often seen dancing between the peaks and troughs still trying to feed amongst the storm waves.


One quote of interest that I found regarding the name came from the pages of Sherlock Holmes.  "You are the stormy petrel of crime, Watson" meaning he had a troubled, black look.



Joseph Ray Hodgson "The Stormy Petrel"

"Last Man Ashore" was painted by Sunderlands James Stokeld 13th April 1827 - 21st November 1877 and can be seen to the right.  The picture portrays Sunderland Coastguards rescuing sailors from a wreck using a rocket and a form of breeches buoy equipment.  On the right are the metal railings at the foot of lighthouse on Sunderland South Pier.  The man carrying a rescued sailor boy is probably James Ray Hodgson.  A man in a brown coat giving a rescued sailor a drink is probably from the Sunderland Humane Society, set up in the 1790's to revive wreck survivors.  The artist considered this to be his finest picture out of the many that he produced.

Last Man Ashore by James Stokeld

Storm Petrels

Sunderland Volunteer Life Brigade

The Arendel shipwrecked of Roker beach

© Sunderland Maritime Heritage, registered charity in England and Wales (1089465)