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MR. HENRY GREATHEAD,
THE INVENTOR OF THE LIFE-BOAT.
Illi robur et æs triplex
AMIDST the pressure of our taxes, and the multiplicity of our wars, the occasional rigour of our season, and the enhanced price of all the necessaries of life, there are many things that still reconcile and endear our country to us. In no other portion of Europe are the rights of individuals so well secured, or private property deemed so sacred. Genius here expands the soul, without fear of being controlled, and afterwards reaps the just reward of its exertions, in peace and security. But this is not all; for its efforts, when directed towards proper pursuits, are not unfrequently aided by the hand of beneficence, while they are always sure of receiving that enlivening portion of praise so justly dear to those who deserve it.
Notwithstanding the alarming inroads of dissipation, and the increasing prevalence of a selfish luxury, the public is still eager to hail the dawn of talents, and to challenge useful excellence whenever it is to be found. Many of our public institutions too, are expressly dedicated to this purpose, and the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Sciences, and Manufactures, has been always ready to patronize works of national utility, while the House of Commons, more especially of late years, has remunerated the exertions of meritorious individuals out of the public purse.
works * The Dutch
In the arts connected with the preservation of human life, we have ever been acknowledged to be pre-eminent. The Humane Society, the model of which we believe was borrowed from one of our neighbours,* has already rescued thousands from death. The rancour of an infectious and alarmimg diseaset has been of late abated by means of a new process, which bids fair to ensure the preservation of nations, Our prisons, the unhappy abodes of crime, misery, and despair, have been rendered less unhealthy, in consequence of the active beneficence of an indir vidual who fell a martyr to his exertions in the cause of mankind; while the decorum of private life, if not the practical morality of society, has been manifestly improved by the labours of our didactic writers.
But something still remained to be achieved. In respect to that element which constitutes at once the source of the wealth and the security of our “seagirt isle,” we had hitherto excelled other countries by means of our superior skill and our superior intrepidity alone. The unrelenting ocean became annually the grave of a multitude of its votaries; and although an Englishman rode fearlessly on its surface, yet when precipitated into the abyss, being unable to boast of any peculiar mode of escape, he experienced the common fate attendant on the individuals of other nations. At length, however, a man arose, who taught us how to buffet the storm, contend victoriously with the waves, protract the period of human existence, and rescue the industrious mariner from the watery grave.
+ The small-pox
In the course of this publication, not content with recapitulating the brilliant exploits of heroes who have fought the battles of their country, we have been always eager to rescue humble worth from obscurity, conscious of the justice of the poet's remark:
Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathom'd caves of Ocean bear;
And waste its sweetness in the desert air.” We consider ourselves particularly fortunate upon the present occasion, having been furnished with abundance of original materials; and while it is our present task to narrate the particulars of a life which has been the source of such advantages to the community, it is at the same time our desire to see the subject of this memoir ranked among the benefactors of his native land, and behold the name of a Greathead coupled with those of a Jenner and a Howard.
The subject of this memoir is a native of Richmond, in Yorkshire, where he was born on the 27th of January 1757. His mother* had two children at
a birth, * Her maiden name was Rainsden, being the daughter of Mr. Henry Rainsden, of York-Buildings, London. She was inarried
a birth, and he happened to be the younger of the twins. His father, Mr. John Greathead, nearly about the same period was appointed an officer of the salt duties; and as he conducted himself with great propriety, he was raised from being a super, numerary, and placed on the establishment, in consequence of which occurrence he removed to South Shields, in the county palatine of Durham, in the year 1763. While there he obtained another step in his official career, having been appointed supervisor and comptroller of the district ; a situation which he appears to have filled with equal honour to himself and credit to his employers, until a great and sudden change took place in that department. It being deemed highly beneficial to blend the duties levied upon salt with those arising out of the other branches of the exeise, so as to simplify the receipts, and produce a considerable saving in the collection, a number of officers of course received their dismission, but their salaries were continued notwithstanding their personal attendance was no longer required, Mr. Greathead accordingly enjoyed his former in, come until the period of his death, which occurred on the 15th of December 1802, when upwards of eighty years of age, forty-six of which had been spent in a public employment,
to Mr. Greathead on the 18th of May 1744, lives at present with her son Henry, at South Shields; and although upwards of eighty-one years of age, in addition to good health, still enjoys the full exercise of her faculties
The son, of whom we are now to give an account, was baptised Henry, after his maternal grandfather, a merchant in London ; and being one of thirteen children, it is not to be supposed that he was destined to be brought up in that state of luxurious indolence which is too often the unhappy lot of those destined to enjoy a patrimonial fortune. It was on the contrary resolved, that at an early period of life he should be enabled to provide for himself and serve the community at the same time.
Notwithstanding the burden of such a large family, and the scanty means of supporting them, we are assured from undoubted authority that the father did them ample justice. The best education that could be obtained in the place of his residence, was bestowed on Henry; as soon as this was achieved, a permanent provision, as has been already hinted, was naturally looked forward to, and was most likely to be obtained, through the medium of a trade. Men, like the chameleon, generally borrow the hue they are fated to assume in life from the objects immediately around them. The busy and bustling port of Shields presented vessels of every size and description, from the humble coble to the three-masted collier, and they were to be seen here in all their various stages of perfection, from the moment that the keel was placed on the slip until the epoch when the labours of the artist were completed, and the ingenious fabric of oak, iron, and canvass, launched into che ocean. It was a familiarity with these scenes while a school-boy, that undoubtedly induced young