Nominator: Richard Thorpe Category: Bravery and/or Personal Sacrifice
At the age of 19years, in 1961, Michael rescued the girl from the seas off Featherbed Rocks when young Barry Sutherland so tragically gave his life in attempting to do so. Michael was stopped from going back into the seas to find Barry Sutherland.
On Saturday 3rd September 1961, Norma Graham of 4 John Street, Southwick,Sunderland was swept out into the sea from the rock pools next to the Featherbed Rocks.
Quote from Sunderland Echo: ' Mr. Thorpe was in the home of Coastguard Station Officer Mr. John Taylor, when he learned that Norma was in difficulties in the sea. He said; 'I dashed to the beach, tossed off my watch and shoes and dived into the heavy swell. I found the girl about 25 yards out.'When they were helped from the promenade Norma said that a boy had gone in for her but she could not see him. A new search was started and eventually Mr Morley was lowered to the beach and pulled the boy from the water.'
This was obviously Barry Sutherland.
He also gave service to Seaham for about four years, from the age of 18, when he was with the local coastguards group operating from 'Bessie's Hole, having taken the lead from his father Michael, who was already in the coastguards. Michael was part of the search party on the Blast Beach that terrible evening of the lifeboat disaster, along with his younger brother John and his dad.
One of four sons to George William (Michael) Thorpe and Ellen Martin nee Punshon. Younger brothers John William, Richard Edward and Alan. Michael was born in Embleton, Northumberland where his father was stationed during the war. They moved to Seaham one year later when his mother was pregnant with John and lived with grandparents in Hawthorn Square. Michael was schooled at Viceroy St Infant School., St. John's Primary School and then Ryhope Grammar School where he left in 1958 to work in Pensions Office of DHSS, Newcastle.
He married Carol Barnes in 1964 and moved to Gateshead where he still lives and works as an Asst Manager in a fish factory..
The photogarph to the left was taken at a nephew's birthday party in Leng's Snooker
Club, seaham and shows Michael (centre) with his two surviving brothers, Richard (left) & John.
Recollections of Michael Thorpe.
I was at Ryhope Grammar School with Michael from 1953 until he left in 1958 and I stayed on for another two years. I remember him as a "solid"
sort of lad who didn't cause anyone any problems but who wasn't pushed around either. I seem to remember him being a good swimmer even in the 1st Form when most of us were just learning at Sunderland Baths in High Street. Later on Michael and I took different academic routes through the school and didn't have too much contact. I had no idea that he had been involved in the rescue at Featherbed Rocks when Barry Sutherland was drowned. I am proud to be able to record his bravery on the web for a wider audience. Well done Michael. I'm proud to have known you and may I wish you and your family good luck and good health for many years to come.