Right time to hon­our a hero...

Sunderland Echo - - Opinion - By Richard Ord

He­roes in life are few and far be­tween, so when they emerge from the his­tory of our com­mu­nity, their mem­ory must be cher­ished.

Few will have heard of the ex­ploits of Joseph Hodg­son, but once heard, they can’t - and shouldn’t be for­got­ten.

His acts of hero­ism read like a boy’s own ad­ven­ture.

Aged just 15, he got his first taste for hero­ism by leap­ing into the River Wear to save the life of a three­year-old boy.

From that point on, life­sav­ing be­came his call­ing.

He joined the team of lifeboat vol­un­teers who watched over the North East coast­line and in a ca­reer span­ning 50 years he took part in the res­cue of 15 stricken ships as well as nu­mer­ous peo­ple him­self.

It earned him the mem­o­rable nick­name of Stormy Pe­trel.

Even a move to Lon­don didn’t stop his life­sav­ing feats of hero­ism. The pin­na­cle be­ing his award of a gold medal from Napoleon III, no less, af­ter com­ing to the aid of a French schooner in dis­tress in 1857.

Thanks to the dili­gent re­search of his great great grand­daugh­ters Chris­tine Sex­ton and Deb­bie Scott his story has come to light.

His life did not, how­ever, have a truly heroic end.

He died in poverty af­ter hav­ing to sell his medals to sur­vive and ended his days in a Lon­don slum.

That could have been the end of the story.

But Chris­tine and Deb­bie have re­fused to let his mem­ory die, and we are grate­ful for their ef­forts.

His story is in­spi­ra­tional and, in the run up the Tall Ships Race, it would be fit­ting to have one of our fa­mous guardians of the coast recog­nised with a blue plaque.

His mem­ory should be cher­ished in the com­mu­nity he served with hon­our.

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