AFTER a lifetime of supporting the Staithes and Runswick lifeboat, Clem James could be forgiven for putting his feet up and taking it easy - but not a bit of it.

The 85-year-old, from Seaton Garth in Staithes, never misses a practice, and is always in the crew room when the lifeboat is called out.

As a token of its appreciation of Mr James' dedication for more than 60 years - latterly as vice-president of the Staithes and Runswick station - the RNLI has awarded him a bar to add to his gold badge. This is the second highest honorary award that can be bestowed by the organisation.

Mr James was born in Scarborough on July 30, 1919. His mother took him home to Ocean View in Seaton Garth a week later, and it has been home for virtually his whole life since.

He attended the village school and then went on to Whitby County Grammar School.

"I achieved no academic success and left with no certificate of any kind," he recalled. "My only success was on the sports fields. I played both cricket and football for the junior teams and for the first XI. I played cricket for the village in the Whitby League from the age of 12, as did my brother."

His next move was to the office of an auctioneer and estate agent in Scarborough, until war broke out on September 3, 1939

"I immediately joined the RAF. I was sworn in on September 8 - afraid the war would be over before I got in. I served as a wireless operator and reached the dizzy heights of corporal.

Returning from Egypt, he was posted to Northolt, where he met wireless operator Edna Bartlett, whom he married in 1943. The couple eventually became the proud parents of Robert and Jane.

After leaving the RAF, the couple returned to Staithes, where they remained for life.

Mr James said: "Edna came to Staithes from London W12 and probably wondered what she had tackled. Eventually she became a dedicated lover of the village and Ocean View.

"She soon won the respect of the local community, probably more than I did.

"My wife died in 1985, and since then I have lived alone. But during her lifetime she was constantly by my side and such success as I have achieved was, to some considerable degree, due to her help."

On leaving the RAF, Mr James joined his father in the family business as fish merchants. They were soon joined by Clem's brother, Bob, and became W James and Sons

Mr James said: "We had a considerable influence in developing the fishing industry and, from the merchanting point of view, making Whitby a very considerable port.

"Some of the more enterprising skippers changed the old methods, incorporating the opportunities offered by new materials and fishing aids. In our expansion we operated from Whitby, Staithes and Scarborough. We developed the lobster trade until we were handling a very high percentage of the lobsters landed in the Yorkshire ports from the Tees to Filey."

During this time, he was also clerk to the Staithes Harbour Board, following his father, who had been clerk since it was formed.

"For 30 years I was either clerk or a commissioner," he said. "During my clerkship I had the West Breakwater rebuilt - two slipways also - and got the seafront at Seaton Garth concreted for the first time. Up until then, it had been simply beaten earth; this was achieved by persuading Maff and others to foot the bill."

By natural progression, he was appointed a member of the North-Eastern Sea Fisheries Committee, again following his father.

This resulted in an unbroken 70 years' service on the committee, including as vice-chairman and chairman.

Mr James said: "I can say that during my time on the committee I was able to eventually raise the minimum size to legally land lobsters by a few millimetres, which gave protection to some females to breed successfully. I am pleased to say that the protection of the breeding stock has continued.

"My other major success was to persuade the funding county councils to provide the money to have a purpose-built patrol boat for the district. This was a very important acquisition from many points of view."

After 30 years on the committee, often warring with the former Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, he says was surprised that they recommended him for the MBE.

"A case of all is forgiven, Clem?," he ponders now.

The James brothers continued to be very keen cricketers, playing for Guisborough in the North Yorkshire and South Durham League, and for Whitby in their Sunday games.

Mr James' father was honorary secretary of the Staithes lifeboat for 40 years. He was made an MBE for his services to the RNLI, and also made honorary life governor, the highest accolade possible and a very rare honour.

It was therefore inevitable that his son would be brought up with a constant contact with lifeboats and the lifeboat service.

Mr James said: "My earliest memory concerning lifeboats was when, as a child of four, I was taken into the front bedroom to watch the Runswick lifeboat rescuing the crew of the Princess Clementine, a Belgian Steamer ashore on the Penny Steel, in full view from Ocean View.

"I remember thinking that it wasn't much of a spectacle, with just a few lights moving around.

"My next memory is of a cold, wet Easter Monday shaking a collecting box - the shaking was no problem, as I was shivering with cold.

"From then on, my brother and I were constantly involved in putting up posters and carrying messages. As I got older, more jobs came my way. Up to the time I left home to join the RAF, I did lots of the more menial tasks."

After his father retired, Mr James was offered the position of honorary secretary, but declined.

"I decided that it was not in the best interest of the station," he said.

He was appointed a deputy launching authority, as the honorary secretary lived near Middlesbrough, virtually putting him in charge of the operational work of the branch, and was also appointed vice-chairman.

He said: "In due course, I became honorary secretary and served in that capacity for 13 years, until I was also retired due to anno domini."

He added: "Being so closely associated with the work of the lifeboats at this station has been an enormous pleasure.

"Seeing first class work by our crews gives immense satisfaction, and being made vice-president was the best gift that I received when I retired. "It allows me the privilege of being present in the crew room when the boat is out on service. It is a great reward.

"Needless to say, I am greatly pleased that the RNLl have chosen to honour me with a bar to my Gold Badge.

"I know it is trite to say it is an honour primarily earned by the station, but in this case I am sure that this is the case."