Friday June 28th is a historic day for the town of Peterhead as a new museum named and dedicated to the Julia Park Barry of Glasgow was officially opened. The RNLB Julia Park Barry was stationed in the town from 1939 through to 1969 and saved 496 lives during its service.
The Watson-class lifeboat was built out of a £9000 gift by Mrs Julia Park Barry who died on 27th March 1939, and arrived in Peterhead on 16th June of the same year. During her service she was instrumental in many rescues and notably, facilitated the rescue of 90 seamen in March 1942 over a 75-hour period, which earned Coxswain John B McLean the RNLI Gold Medal, the first to be awarded in Scotland in 104 years.
After she served in Peterhead, The Julia Park Barry remained as a RNLI relief lifeboat through to 1979. The vessel was then returned to Peterhead in 2013 after being purchased by Professor Sir Lewis D Ritchie OBE FRSE. The plan was to restore and create a museum in the port of Peterhead but financially, this proved very difficult. An offer then came from the late Charles Ritchie, founder of Score Group plc, to not only accommodate the vessel at Admiralty Gateway, but to also restore and create the museum for generations to experience.
The Julia Park Barry of Glasgow made its final voyage to Admiralty Gateway in May 2015 where over the last 4 years she has been restored and become centrepiece of this museum bearing her name.
The dedication was opened by Conrad Ritchie, Managing Director of Score International who has driven the project over the last 2 years. He gave a brief history of the vessel before thanking the many people who have worked on various aspects of the project. He then invited Professor Sir Lewis D Ritchie to the podium to say a few words. Sir Lewis Ritchie expanded a little on what Conrad had said but also emphasised the thanks to the crews of lifeboats for their bravery and at time sacrifice. He then unveiled the plaque to much applause from the gathered guests. John Wallace, former chairman of Peterhead Port Authority then gave a final vote of thanks to complete the formal proceedings.
Sir Lewis Ritchie was then invited to be the first official visitor to the museum followed by the other guests. All were delighted to then see the Julia Park Barry of Glasgow pride of place and fully restored like she had been back in 1939.
The museum proudly displays the lifeboat and tells her story alongside the history of lifeboats stationed in the town from 1865. It is assured to become a very popular attraction within the grounds of Admiralty Gateway which is also home to Peterhead Prison Museum and attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year. The museum will open to the public on 22nd July during Peterhead Scottish Week.