Holyhead's station history


Forty-nine of the Institution’s medals for gallantry have been awarded four Gold, 32 Silver and 13 Bronze, the last being voted in 1978.

The first mention of Holyhead in the records of the Institution appears in 1825 (the year after the Institution itself was founded) when it was decided that a lifeboat should be built for Holyhead.  In 1828 a local committee was formed and shortly afterwards the boat arrived.  It has always been an important station and  is one of the three oldest lifeboat stations on the Welsh coast.

From 1890 to 1930 two lifeboats were stationed at Holyhead and for a short time (1892 to 1893) there were three lifeboats.


Silver Medal awarded to Thomas Hughes for leading a party of men in rescuing 24 people by means of rope communication, from the Brig Harlequin and the Brig Fame that had gone onto rocks tying to enter the harbour in a north-westerly gale on 28 April 1829.


Silver Medals awarded to Coxswain Robert Stables, Captain William Owen and Master Mariner Oliver Anthony for rescuing, in the lifeboat, the crew of the ship Iphegenia that had gone onto rocks to the leeward of Holyhead Harbour on 3 December 1832.


Gold Medal awarded to Rev James Williams for a service on 7 March 1835 to the smack Active that grounded in Cemaes Bay with seas breaking over her in a north-westerly gale.  After several unsuccessful attempts to launch a boat Rev Williams, ignoring the mountainous seas, rode a horse into the surf and drew near enough to throw a grappling hook over the bowsprit which enabled a boat to be pulled to the wreck thereby saving the crew of five who were found in the cabin too exhausted to move.  All were landed safely.

Gold Medal awarded to Captain William Owen and Silver Medal to Coxswain Richard Morris, for rescuing the crew of the ship Plutarch that was drifting onto rocks in a north-westerly gale, torrential rain and high seas on 10 September 1835.  In the dark and on the second attempt 11 seamen were taken off and safely landed ashore.


Silver Medal awarded to Coxswain Henry Parry, for saving the crew of nine from the schooner Rosalie of Bruges, laying to with eight feet of water in her hold, on 14 November 1939.  Mr Parry and two men made two trips through heavy surf and rescued all the people aboard.  When they left the dept of water in the hold had risen to 16 feet.


Lifeboat capsized whilst returning to her station after four of the crew had boarded the schooner Henry Holman of Plymouth on 14 January.  Four of the crew were carried away to sea and three were picked up at great risk by the tug Constitution of Liverpool.  The fourth man, William Hughes, was drowned.  Committee of Management voted £40 to his widow.


Silver Medal awarded to Coxswain William Rowlands, acknowledging his long and gallant services in saving the lives of a large number of shipwrecked people.


Silver Second Service clasp awarded to Coxswain William Rowlands for rescuing 53 people in a northerly gale and heavy seas within a 24-hour period from 1/2 December 1867.  Twelve lives from the Barque Bayadere that had parted from her anchors and struck rocks; she broke up soon afterwards, 34 lives, including a woman and her seven month old baby, from the rigging of the ship Lydia Williams that had sunk near Salt Island and seven lives from the schooner Elizabeth.


The lifeboat house was built of stone with a galvanised iron roof.  It had no windows and on the east side the Coastguard boathouse abutted on it.  The lifeboat had no carriage but ran to the sea on a wooden slipway.  When the present boat was supplied, being larger than the former one, it was necessary to build a porch-like projection at the rear of the house for the winch.


New lifeboat constructed at a cost of £370.


Two specimen life-belts, with new plans for fastening them to the body, were sent to this station for trial by the crew.  One was in the form of a waistcoat and the other was fastened by means of straps and buckles in lieu of the old plan of fastening by strings.


Silver Medal awarded to Coxswain Thomas Roberts for rescuing 20 men from the rigging of the Barque Norman Court that went aground and sank on Cymyran Bank in a heavy south-south-westerly gale on 30 March 1883.  Each of the 15 crew were awarded The Thanks of the Institution on Vellum and a reward of £3.  This service was carried out in the Rhosneigir lifeboat.


Silver Second Service clasp awarded on his retirement to Coxswain Roberts in acknowledgement of his long and valuable service in saving life from shipwreck.


Silver Medal awarded to Coxswain Edward Jones for the rescue of 21 people from the ship Pegasus that had drifted ashore in a northerly gale and very heavy seas on 9 December 1886.  With the seas making a clean breach over the wreck the coxswain managed to position the lifeboat under her quarter deck and took off the 20 crewmen and the Pilot.


Silver Medal awarded to J O Williams, Honorary Secretary, for services over many years.

Lifeboat house extended to receive the No 3 lifeboat at a cost of £615.


Silver Second Service clasp awarded to Coxswain Edward Jones and Silver Medal to Second Coxswain Robert Jones in recognition of their gallant services extending over many years, especially when the barque Glen Grant drifted onto rocks in a gale on 14 March 1889.  Her 13 man crew was taken off by a line put aboard using rocket apparatus.

Gas and water services provided.


Silver Medal awarded to Mr William Owen and Mr George Jones in recognition of their gallant services in putting off three times in a boat and, at great risk, rescuing on the second occasion, three of the crew of the barque Tenby Castle of Liverpool, which was wrecked in Carnarvon Bay during a strong south west breeze and a heavy sea on the night of 17 December 1889.  Silver Medals were also awarded to Mr John Roberts and Mr John Morris who went out in the boat twice and assisted to save lives.  A Silver Second Service clasp was voted to Mr J O Williams, Chief Officer of HM Coastguard at Holyhead and the Honorary Secretary of the Institution’s branch at that port, who went in the boat on her final launch to attempt to save others of the shipwrecked crew.


Coxswain Robert Jones died as a result of exposure and injuries sustained when he fell on some rocks during a service to the ss Meath on 1 February.  Committee of Management voted £200 to his widow.


Whilst the steam lifeboat Duke of Northumberland was on passage to her station on 26 June, there was an explosion in the boiler room and two firemen, John Owen and Thomas Owen, were killed.  Committee of Management voted £500 to each of the families of the deceased.


Committee of Management voted £100 to local fund for dependants of me who were drowned whilst attempting a rescue on 26 February.  Two of the men were members of the crew of the steam lifeboat.


Landing platform constructed and earth excavated for berth for steam lifeboat.

Gold Medal awarded to Coxswain William Owen and Silver Medals to the crew Thomas W Brooke, George Jones, Lewis Jones, Richard Jones, Samuel Jones, James Lee, William McLaughlin, Charles H Marshall, William Owen Jnr, Lewis Roberts for a service on 22 February when the steam lifeboat Duke of Northumberland went out in hurricane force winds and tremendous seas to the Liverpool steamer, ss Harold drifting not far from shore close to rocks between the headlands known as the North and South Stacks.  A terrible sea was running and it was only after two hours of the most skilful and hazardous manoeuvring by Coxswain William Owen that the lifeboat was able to get close enough for ropes to be thrown and the steamer’s crew of nine to be hauled on board.    

Truck supplied (two wheeler) to carry coal from the shed to the steam lifeboat.


The lifeboat was launched on service to the schooner The Gardner Williams on 28 March.  She stood by the vessel and later assisted to save her.  Whilst standing by, the vessel rolled on top of the lifeboat seriously injuring Thomas Michael who died the same night.  The Committee of Management granted a pension to the widow.


Centenary Vellum was awarded to the station.


Bronze Medals awarded to Coxswain Richard Jones and Motor Mechanic John Jones for the rescue of 47 men from the ss Castilian which went aground on East Platters during a heavy gale from the south west and very rough seas on 12/13 February 1943.


Bronze Medal Second Service clasp awarded to Coxswain Richard Jones for rescuing the crew of seven of the small Liverpool steamer Mayflower on 26 October 1949 in a whole northerly gale with violent squalls and rough sea with heavy gusts of rain.  The lifeboat reached the wreck in 10 minutes and with the tide ebbing, took the lifeboat alongside and held her there while seven men jumped on board.


The Sugar Manufacturer’s Association (of Jamaica) Ltd awarded a case of rum to the Holyhead lifeboat crew who carried out the longest continuous service during the winter months of 1953/54, of 24 hours on 15/16 January.


Inshore lifeboat station established with the placing on service of a D class lifeboat in April.


Gold Medal awarded to Lieut Commander H H Harvey VRD, RNR, Inspector of Lifeboats for the North West area, Silver Medals awarded to Coxswain Thomas Alcock and Motor Mechanic E S Jones and Bronze Medals awarded to Second Coxswain W J Jones, Acting Bowman F Ward, Acting Assistant Mechanic, J Sharpe, crew members J Hughes, D Drinkwater and B Stewart for a service on 2 December 1966 when the lifeboat St Cybi (Civil Service No 9) rescued five of the crew of the Greek motor vessel Nafsiporos which was in distress 400 yards west of the West Mouse rock in a north-westerly hurricane with a very rough sea.  Awards for this service were also made to the Moelfre lifeboat.


Bronze Medals awarded to Mechanic D Forrest and crewmember Gareth Ogwen-Jones, Bronze Second Service clasp awarded to crew member John Hughes for rescuing four men from the yacht Sinbad on 3 September 1971.  On reaching the casualty a member of the crew shouted that three men were trapped below.  The lifeboat went alongside and five crew were transferred to the casualty.  In difficult and dangerous circumstances an unconscious man was rescued from the main cabin, one from a small forward cabin and another from the heads.  A man that had suffered a heart attack and had lost consciousness was strapped into a Neil Robertson stretcher and moved from the main cabin.  All four men were landed at Holyhead.  Carbon monoxide poisoning resulting from a cracked exhaust pipe together with a calor gas leak was the reason why the crew lost consciousness.


The Silver Medal awarded to Coxswain William Jones in recognition of the courage and determination he displayed when the lifeboat rescued the crew of four of the yacht Pastime in difficulties approximately 30 miles south-south-west of Skerries Lighthouse in a violent north east storm and a very rough sea on 11 September 1976.  The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum were accorded to the remainder of the lifeboat crew.


Bronze Second Service clasp awarded to Coxswain William Jones in recognition of the courage, seamanship and determination he displayed when the lifeboat saved the yacht Gika in difficulties in a gale and very rough seas 13 miles south west of South Stack Lighthouse and rescued one of her crew in a south west gale and very rough sea on 4 September 1977.

A 150th Anniversary Vellum was awarded to the station.


On 16 July the station was honoured by the visit by HRH The Duke of Kent, President of the RNLI, for the naming ceremony of the lifeboat Hyman Winstone.


Side extension to the boathouse was constructed to accommodate the station’s D class lifeboat.  The fabrication of a special launching trolley was also incorporated in this work.


Crewroom constructed in the boathouse above the area of the winch by the crew.


The new station Arun class lifeboat ON1123 Kenneth Thelwall was placed on service on 17 September 1998.  Lifeboat ON1086 withdrawn.


Improved facilities completed in the boathouse.


The new station Severn class lifeboat ON1272 Christopher Pearce was placed on service on 21 December 2003.  Lifeboat ON1123 Kenneth Thelwall has been withdrawn.


New class lifeboat on station.  FB1 lifeboat D654 Angel of Holyhead was placed on service on 10 November.  This lifeboat was funded by The Lifeboat Fund.


For services to the Institution, Coxswain Brian Thomson has been honoured by Her Majesty the Queen in the recent Birthday Honours:  Member, Order of the British Empire (MBE).