TRIBUTES have been paid to a heroic lifeboatman and international amateur footballer following his death last week at the age of 83.
Raymond Oliver was a stalwart of the RNLI’s Cullercoats lifeboat station after joining it as a 17-year-old in 1945.
Born in 1928, Raymond married his sweetheart Lilian in 1962, and they had three children – Tracy, Robert and Carol.
At the age of 18, he was involved in a rescue after three sightseers on Tynemouth’s pier were knocked into the water by a wave.
Raymond jumped out, spraining his ankle in the process, but swam over to the three people and got them back to the safety of the beach before climbing back on the lifeboat and continuing with another rescue.
He was awarded the Royal Humane Society Award for his courage.
Over the years, Raymond committed himself to the lifeboat service, using his seamanship, local expertise and courage to great effect, reaching the position of coxswain, the commanding officer of the lifeboat.
Raymond was an outstanding amateur footballer, playing as a centre forward for Whitley Bay Athletic and scoring 106 goals.
He also played for Bishop Auckland, playing in four consecutive FA Amateur Cup finals from 1954, winning three and losing one.
Raymond gained international honours for England between 1954 and 1956 but turned down a number of offers from professional clubs, saying he had no desire to leave his inshore fishing or beloved Cullercoats lifeboat crew.
David Wakenshaw, chairman of Cullercoats lifeboat station, said: “Ray was a great servant to the RNLI over many years, and his selfless courage and leadership helped save many lives.
“He was a native of Cullercoats who followed in the proud tradition of Cullercoats lifeboatmen, setting a fine example for over 50 years to the coming generations.”