We all have our own personal reasons for working to return a lifeboat to St Abbs, saving lives, a sense of duty. Graham Slack tells his story of the St Abbs Lifeboat.
The first time that I visited St Abbs was on a family holiday in 1969 with my parents and my younger sister, I was 5 years old at the time and we stayed in a cottage called “Bell View” overlooking the harbour for two weeks. I can remember sitting on the bench outside our house and watching the boats return to the harbour. I used to run down the steps and meet them to see what they had caught and sometimes if I was really lucky they would let me have the sea urchins that they picked off their creels. My sister and I used to clean all the spikes off them and bleach the shells in a bucket, so that we could take them back home with us. We all loved St Abbs and made it our holiday destination for many years to come…
I also remember the Lifeboat, in those days the boat in service was called the Jane Hay, a large solid bodied boat nothing like the fast ribs of today. She was painted in the traditional navy blue and white colours with large ropes hanging down from the gunwales. I remember that she always looked pristine; she was kept in perfect condition, as bright and shiny as if she had just come from the boat yard that built her. When she was launched it wasn’t the slow steady controlled process of today, being delivered to the water in a secure cradle, the Jane Hay raced down the slip and burst onto the water sending up huge waves of spray.
There wasn’t a paging system like we have today either, instead; a rocket was launched, it was so loud that I think everybody in the village could hear it, the result of this was that many of the villagers would scurry down to the harbour to watch the boat being launched. I can remember this vividly; at my young age it was so exciting to watch the fisherman that I had been talking to in the morning, racing back down to the boat shed to man the lifeboat.
All that was 45 years ago and the majority of those old crewmen are sadly no longer with us, neither are the members of my family that held my hand as we watched the Jane Hay take to the water. At times like this I quite often wonder what these people would have thought about our current situation.
Personally I have always believed that no matter how dark the cloud, there is always a silver lining and although we could be forgiven for seeing the closure of our station as the end of an era, it is also an incredible opportunity for us to take the initiative and build something far better than we had before and that is exactly what we are doing. We have all the right people in all the right places, the fund raising is going well, committees have been established, merchandise is selling we have a great web site and lots of events being arranged for the future.
It would seem that our community has been forged together with one overwhelming objective, all the doubt and uncertainty that loomed over our heads when the RNLI announced their plans in May has been lifted from us and now we are all looking to the future with new plans new ideas and a new determination that can only come from having nothing left to lose.
I am sure that the old crewmen of the St Abbs lifeboats and their families, who gave tirelessly towards the 104 years of service to their community, would be very proud of what we are doing today and see it as being the only way forward. So would my old granny, who held my hand all those years ago as we watched the Jane Hay explode in to life as she raced down the slip. If she was here with us today she would do what she always did, she would wander up to the post office in the morning, buy a quarter of mints in a brown paper bag from the big jars on the shelves behind the counter and give me her loose change to put in the lifeboat collection box, she would never have known that one day I would end up living here, or that I would become a crew member myself, but I think that she would be happy.
If you would like to make a donation to the new St Abbs Lifeboat you can do it now on our Just Giving Campaign page: