Eleven years after Assistant Mechanic Nigel Brockman lost his life on the Solomon Browne, his son Neil, now the proud owner and skipper of the Cormorant, was appointed coxswain of the Mabel Alice. At the age of 28, Neil had become the youngest-ever coxswain of an Arun class lifeboat.
Neil was worried he was too young to take the helm, but the RNLI had no doubts. They respected his experience and judgement to such an extent that a few years later they sent him to China to train Chinese crews in the use of these vessels.
A fisherman, Neil had been on and off boats since he could walk and was always going to join the lifeboat, like his dad.
He was a 17-year-old trainee lifeboat crew member in 1981 when he ran to the boathouse to volunteer to go out to the Union Star. Coxswain Trevelyan Richards turned him away saying one from a family was enough on such a night… that decision saved Neil’s life. He was on the replacement lifeboat’s first shout after the tragedy and went on to serve Penlee with distinction, receiving the Bronze Medal for an outstanding service in 1994, to rescue the Newlyn crabber Julian Paul.
In 2008 Neil left Penlee Lifeboat Station after nearly 30 years of continuous service – 16 as coxswain – to become skipper of an offshore service vessel maintaining windfarms in the North Sea. He was the last lifeboat crew member to have served on the Solomon Browne lifeboat.
RNLI images copyright & courtesy of Phil Monckton.