Troon RNLI Fundraising Volunteer Jean Shields

Jean Shields, a 70-something RNLI charity fundraiser is making waves in Scotland. Granny Jean has dived with sharks and driven army tanks to raise lifesaving funds for the RNLI.

Troon RNLI Fundraising Volunteer Jean Shields

Photo: RNLI / Henry Weaver

Troon RNLI fundraising volunteer Jean Shields
I am a mad woman with a mission to raise money! I had five children so when they were young I couldn’t do that much. Now I’m making up for it!

Who introduced you to the RNLI?

My first memory is from when I was a child, seeing the lifeboat out on the water at Rothesay on the Isle of Bute, it’s an amazing thing to see. I used to sail and dive with my husband, so we’d always been aware of the charity and every time we sailed into somewhere we had to find the RNLI and make a donation. He used to say: “If you don’t put in, you can’t take out.”’

How do you get involved with the RNLI?

I’m on the fundraising committee and I help out in the shop, that keeps me busy all the time. It was Joe Millar, the local Coxswain, who helped me to get more involved with the RNLI. My husband had just recently died, I was new to Troon and looking for something to do with my time so he said: “Why don’t you get in touch with the fundraisers.” It started from there.
I’m just doing crazy stuff. I had five children so when they were young I couldn’t do that much. Now I’m making up for it!

I’ve heard about your crazy bucket list, can you tell me a bit more about it? 

I am a mad woman with a mission to raise money! I just thought: “Diving with sharks – I used to go diving with my husband, so that’s not so dangerous or hard.” It’s fun for me and it’s great if it raises some money for the RNLI as well. Diving is great, it opens up a whole new world. It’s peaceful and serene and you’re seeing things you’ve never seen.

I’d always wanted to drive a tank. When the children were young and we used to come to the seaside, you could never get parking so I’d say: “If I had a Sherman tank, I could park where I liked”. They thought this was crazy and stupid and “Mum’s daft”, but they remembered this and I raised funds.

What are your passions?

My family is my first passion. Other than that: the sea, sailing, ships, and the RNLI are passions. I stay right across from the sea, and I watch it daily. I love it.

What’s your favourite thing about the RNLI?

I just love the heroism of all the guys and girls who go out and do that. I think they’re very special – to me they’re very special because I don’t know that I would look at a force 10 gale and voluntarily go out, you know?! 

My grandson has been on the lifeboat for over 10 years now, he’s so passionate about it. He started in Largs when he was 17, and now he’s in the Oban crew. I think it all comes from my husband because the whole family loves sailing, so I suppose it’s in the blood now. It makes me so proud to see him going out.

We have a great crew here and two terrific boats, it’s just wonderful.

What’s your fondest memory from your time with the RNLI, so far?

The day we opened the shop in the town. It’s gone so well. Before we were down at the harbour, in a spot which was very difficult for people to find, so nobody knew we were there. Now we’re in the heart of the town and we’re in view 24/7. All the locals, tourists and visiting golfers come into the shop and it’s booming. Then we can direct them down to the station to take a look at the boat and that makes a big difference.

How does it feel to be a part of the RNLI family? What does it mean to you?

It means that I’m giving something of myself to help others who are more heroic than me. It’s their heroism that thrills me all the time.