Category Archives: Our Crew

The Crew of the St Abbs Lifeboat

A Weekend of Intensive Training thanks to Paul

training002We just had a fantastic weekend (13-14 January 2018) of medical exercises under the knowledgeable and watchful eye of Paul Savage OBE. Paul is Chairman of UKSAR Medical Group and MD of Saviour Medical Ltd, and for 6 years was Clinical Lead and Clinical Operations Manager for the RNLI. He also devised the medical check cards and the Saviour stretcher that our crew use.

Paul now concentrates his medical teaching from his own company, but still finds time to volunteer as a member of Tower Lifeboat Station on the Thames, the busiest lifeboat station in the UK.
Paul agreed to come to St Abbs for the weekend to put our crew through their paces, seeing first hand what they have learned and passing on tips and observations based on his vast experience of lifeboat medicine and volunteering for other SAR organisations including the Coastguard.


Over the course of the 2 days Paul devised various casualty scenarios based around the incidents we normally encounter here.
During the weekend our crew had to deal with a mother and daughter who had fallen on rocks and badly injured themselves, a cardiac arrest on the Harbour and a creel fisherman with a traumatic chest injury. They also had to treat and extract a couple of walkers who had fallen and become wedged in rocks, sustaining major head trauma and multiple fractures in the process.


He also threw in a couple of “red herrings” to test our crew and keep them on their toes, for example a diver showing symptoms which turned out to be hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) which is not the usual diver-related incident we would normally deal with.
On Saturday evening Paul hosted a hugely informative lecture on drowning and hypothermia, to which we also invited our local Coastguard teams.


Our crew acquitted themselves very well over a long and testing weekend, and the regular medical exercises that Fiona, our doctor does, really showed their worth.

We would like to thank Paul of course, but also the “casualties” who gave up their weekends to help make the scenarios as realistic as possible.

“St Abbs Lifeboat – The Crew” a book by Steve Cox.

Over the last year we have had the pleasure of photographer, Steve Cox’s company on numerous occasions. Even though Steve suffers from sea sickness he has came out with us on training sessions and has even taken part in a man-over board drill.


The results of all Steve’s hard work and suffering to create a photographic record of our crew, has now been published.

The book, entitled “St Abbs Lifeboat – The Crew” illustrates our crew both on and off the water in the first year of operation of our independent lifeboat.

Steve was keen to also show our crew’s lives away from the harbour, so there are portraits of Jim Wilson with his racing pigeons and Phil Rutherford  hunting for treasure with his metal detector.

You can buy your copy of “St Abbs Lifeboat – The Crew” from our online shop.

Crew successfully complete ‘First Person On Scene’ training

A big thanks to everyone at Medipro Limited for putting another seven of our crew through their ‘First Person On Scene’ first aid training.16406797_1333369506727105_1899270620188060790_n

We are so proud of the commitment from our volunteer crew….not only do they practice lifeboat exercises twice a week, every week. They have just spent three days away on this residential course.


Visit the MediPro website here:

St Abbs – A Community with One Goal

We’d like to share the words of our crewman Graham Slack.

harbour028The 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.

 Jane Hay
Launching the Jane Hay.

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.

Jane Hay
The Jane Hay.

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.

stream_imgCommunity forged together.

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.

Old Crew Keeping 104 years of tradition alive.

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 page:


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.

Just one of our Heroes

Darren Crowe, from St Abbs, saved the life of a man who had slipped and fallen into the sea at the foot of the cliffs of St Abb’s Head.

When the St Abbs Lifeboat reached the spot, Darren swam into the cave where the man was clinging to a rock in the rising tide, and took him safely back to the lifeboat.

His bravery was recognised in 2011 with a St Andrews Bronze Award.