Volunteers like Graham are the soul of the RNLI

We’d like to share the words of our crewman Graham Slack. Without volunteers like Graham there wouldn’t be an RNLI.

I joined the St Abbs crew not long after I moved up here from Northampton only five years ago. It is said that Northampton is the centre of England and the furthest point from any coastline. With that in mind it would seem unlikely that my family were all seafarers and fishermen, but they were and I am the first generation of my family that has not gone to sea for the past four generations, that is the last four generations that I am aware of there are probably more.

My great grandfather was a fisherman he sailed out of Birkenhead to the fishing grounds off North Wales; he caught mainly white fish in those days, my grandfather worked with him. My father did a seven year apprenticeship as a chef and his first job after qualification was with Cunard on the RMS Queen Elizabeth sailing the Atlantic from Southampton to New York and my uncle was an engineer on the super tankers.

In 1972 when i was still just a small child, I can remember walking in to the living room of our house to see my dad watching the television; he was in floods of tears, at first I was scared, I had never seen my dad cry before. Then I looked at the television. I saw a huge ship on fire with black smoke pouring from it and streams of water arching through the sky from firefighting boats and tugs. My dad told me that this was the Elizabeth, the ship that he had sailed on when I was still a baby, the ship that he had worked and lived on seven days a week, travelled the world and honed the skills of his trade that would support me and the rest of our family for years to come.

The next day the newspapers were full of pictures of the stricken Elizabeth, she lay in Hong Kong harbour a burned out smoking wreck, some say that she was the victim of a suspected arson attack in order to claim insurance, others say it was a political act the result of a dispute between the owner and the communist ship building unions. All I know is that I had never seen my dad cry before and at that age I couldn’t possibly understand his grief, or sense of loss while watching the Elizabeth burn before him. All his memories were going up in smoke his pride of serving on one of the greatest ocean liners ever built was welling up inside him and he just could not control it he was hurt and angry and unable to do anything about it.

The reason that I joined the St Abbs crew was because I thought that in my own small way I could say thank you to all the generations of my family who had gone to sea before me and become a tiny little cog in the machine that saves lives at sea. Of course, I could never handle a boat like Paul or Davey, or have the years of knowledge like Alistair, but I am just as proud to stand at the winch and launch our boat, refuel it and wash it down after she has been to sea, as my father was to serve on the Elizabeth.

Now, my mind goes back 42 years to our little two up two down terraced house, thousands of miles away from the Elizabeth and hundreds of miles away from the nearest coastline. I can remember my father watching his beloved Elizabeth burn before his eyes and after all these years, for the first time ever I can understand exactly how he felt.

Our station is being stolen from under our very noses and it feels like there is nothing more that we can do. So many people have worked tirelessly to fight this battle but the RNLI high up in their ivory tower are standing their ground.

However one thing is for certain, and that is that however they try to justify their decisions, or hide behind their board of trusties and false claims. As the clock ticks away towards the 8th of September, today’s future will soon become tomorrow’s history and we will all be proven right. However the likelihood is as we all know that some poor soul will probably have to lose their life in order for the RNLI to even consider this.

We still have time yet and I know that none of us will stop the fight just because we have a closing date, but let’s take time to remember that however this ends, we can all be very proud of the fact that we have done everything that we possibly could to make the RNLI change their minds.

There is an old saying “The value of the well is not known until it finally runs dry…” very apt I think, perhaps the RNLI executive would like to think this one over.

St Abbs Lifeboat – First on the scene of stricken fishing boat

At 9:47am on the 25th July, The pagers were set off requesting St Abbs Lifeboat to launch. Soon after thethe St Abbs lifeboat was bearing west past Black Carrs and round St Abbs Head, speeding to the aid of a broken down fishing boat nearly 8 miles up the coast in the vicinity of Siccar Point.
Rescue 112 minutes after leaving harbour the St Abbs Lifeboat was on scene, where a local fishing boat was discovered to have suffered a gearbox failure. The two occupants of the boat were safe and well, they had deployed their anchor to prevent them drifting onto the rocks, but were unable to restart their engine. Eyemouth ALB (All weather Life Boat) was also in the area on exercise, and was also tasked to the scene, but was stood down when it was understood St Abbs were with the vessel, and everything was under control.

Rescue 3

A tow was established, and the St Abbs Lifeboat returned the broken down vessel back to St Abbs harbour at a steady 4-5 knots in moderate seas. Once back at St Abbs, the casualty vessel was helped to berth in the old harbour.

The lifeboat then returned to station, refueled, and was ready for service again around 11:30am.

British Sub Aqua Club – Supporting Our Campaign

We’d like to thank the British Sub Aqua Club and its member for getting behind the campaign to Save St Abbs Lifeboat. Today the Chairman of BSAC, Eugene Farrell, visited St Abbs and talked with the crew, divers and local people.

Eugene Farrell meets with member our crew

“It is clear to us now that while we will continue to try to work with the RNLI to ensure there is sufficient provision in the area, for our members one less lifeboat station around St Abbs is simply not acceptable.

“I have been to visit the St Abbs Lifeboat Station today to see the facilities and have spoken to divers, lifeboat crew and local people myself to hear their concerns.

“Every minute counts when a diver or other sea-user is in trouble. We must now directly represent our members’ concerns and call for the St Abbs Lifeboat Station to remain open and to provide what is to many, an essential and potentially life-saving service in an area that is very busy in diving terms.” – BSAC Chairman Eugene Farrell

The British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC) is the UK’s leading dive club and the sport’s National Governing Body in the UK. Its support adds more weight to our call for the proposed closure of St Abbs lifeboat station to be overturned.

You can read the BSAC news article here.

St Abbs Lifeboat – The Heart of our Community

DSC_9854Award winning journalist, Ian Bell, as written an excellent article in the Herald.

We were particularly struck by this extract….

“The question of what makes – or breaks – a community is never simple. What looks small enough from the outside is big and fundamental if it’s part of who you are.

Where St Abbs is concerned, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution has overlooked that fact. It counts as irony. The RNLI depends as much as any charity on communities and their sense of themselves. Communities provide the volunteers for its 235 stations and its 346 lifeboats. Communities dig deep, year upon year, to provide the money – £51.15 million according to the 2013 annual report – to support the RNLI and ensure that crews have the gear they need.

From that attitude comes an ethos. The ethos brought the institution £118.75 million in legacies at the last count. Without communities, without what they are prepared to risk, sacrifice and spend, the RNLI wouldn’t amount to much. The organisation knows this, counts on it, boasts of it. The mistake it is about to make at St Abbs flies in the face of the RNLI’s traditions. Locals believe it also defies reason. And they call it a betrayal.”


Well said Ian ,we couldn’t agree more. Community is the foundation upon which the RNLI is built. It’s not too late for the RNLI exective to remember that the  organisation they run relies on similar communities to ours all around the coast of these British Isles.

You can read the full article here:


Support within the House of Commons

Our local MP Calum Kerr has rasied an Early Day Motion proposing a debate within the House of Commons on the proposed closure of the St Abbs Lifeboat Station.

“That this House supports the campaign to save the St Abbs lifeboat in Berwickshire from closure; notes that St Abbs is the largest diving area in the UK and that there is a risk that the removal of a locally-based lifeboat able to respond to incidents rapidly will discourage recreational visitors in particular; recognises that the retention of a lifeboat in this very busy and popular location for diving is a matter of public safety; and urges the Royal National Lifeboat Institution to fulfil its priority mission of saving lives at sea by reversing this unpopular decision.” – Early Day Motion 322 – St Abbs Lifeboat.

The motion has currently been signed buy 29 MPs.

You Can Help…..

You can help by writing (e-mailing) your local MP and asking them to sign “Early Day Motion 322 – St Abbs Lifeboat”. We need your support as there is a strict parliamentary convention that MPs can only deal with matters raised by those from their own constituency.

You can find out who has signed the motion here: http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2015-16/322


St Abbs Gala Day – 11th July 2015

Gala Day Poster The annual St Abbs Gala Day takes places this Saturday (11th July 2015). In previous years the funds raised went to the RNLI however this year all the money raised will be going towards Saving St Abbs Lifeboat.

The Gala is held at the Ebba Centre, St Abbs and starts at 1:00pm running through to 4:00pm. There is a range of stalla and live entertainment. Entry is free, and everyone is welcome.

3 Fishermen Rescued

RescueAs the protest march was coming to an end the St Abbs Lifeboat was called out to rescue 3 fishermen whose boat was sinking.

The crew resonded very quicky and after lauching the lifeboat they reached the sinking boat within 4 minutes. The small fishing boat had started taking on water on the North of St Abbs Head, the proposed D-Class to be based in Eyemouth would have taken 20 minutes to reach the sinking boat.

After the 3 crew were rescue and returned the the lifeboat house, the Lifeboat went back out to recover the boat.


Hundreds Join Protest March

JohnlamontThank you to everyone who joined the protest march on 4th July 2015. All together there were about 300 people who joined the march including community safety minister and MSP Paul Wheelhouse, MSP John Lamont and MP Calum Kerr.

Thanks also to Micheal Wilson for leading the march playing the pipes.

ITV Reporter, Jenny Longden,  was there to report on the day. You can watch her report here: http://www.itv.com/news/border/story/2015-07-05/protest-against-st-abbs-lifeboat-station-closure/

The National Newpaper, Berwickshire News and BBC also reported the march.

Scottish Sub Aqua Club – Supporting Our Campaign

We’d like to thank the Scottish Sub Aqua Club for adding its voice to the campaign to Save St Abbs Lifeboat.

The ScotSAC Chair has written to the Chief Executive RNLI in support of keeping the St Abbs Lifeboat station open. It’s closure would mean a loss of local knowledge and the ability to respond quickly in an area where diving activity has increased. – ScotSAC Facebook Page.

The Scottish Sub Aqua Club (ScotSAC) is recognised by sportscotland as the National Governing Body for the sport of diving in Scotland. Its support adds more weight to our call for the proposed closure of St Abbs lifeboat station to be overturned.

Click here to visit their facebook page.