RNLI shops, museums and the College will open as Government guidance allows. Lifeboat stations remain operational but are not open to visitors.

Station history


Three Bronze Medals have been awarded. The last voted in 1989.

In July 1968 the Committee of Management decided that lifeboat 70-002 (ON 988), which had been carrying out evaluation trials under operational conditions off the north east coast of Scotland, should continue her trials for the winter of 1968/1969 based at Kirkwall. Following the Longhope lifeboat disaster in March 1969, she maintained coverage of the Pentland Firth area and operated from Kirkwall. For a trial period up to 31 March 1972, the lifeboat was operated in Orkney North Isles from Mondays to Fridays and berthed in Kirkwall Harbour at weekends. The Kirkwall Lifeboat Station was established on 30 May 1972.


Bronze Medal awarded to Staff Coxswain R H Dennison for saving the Danish fishing vessels Rosslau, Anne Stranne, Clupea and Kami and rescuing 20 men. The vessels had broken adrift from the pier in a northerly wind of hurricane force and a very rough sea on 8 November 1971.


Framed Letters of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution Commander F R H Swann CBE,RNVR awarded to Honorary Secretary Captain Sinclair, Coxswain F Johnston, and crew members D Grieve, J Grey, D Pearce, M Drever, and B Hall in recognition of the seamanship and determination displayed when they went to the aid of the trawler Navena that had gone aground on a reef in storm force winds and heavy seas on 6 December 1973.


Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain William Swanson Sinclair (Captain) in recognition of the courage and skill displayed by him when the lifeboat rescued the crew of three and saved the fishing vessel Benachie which was stranded amongst rocks half a mile north east of Rousay Pier in a south easterly storm with driving snow and a very rough sea on 22 January 1984.


Arun class lifeboat sent to station.


Bronze Second-Service clasp awarded to Coxswain William Swanson Sinclair (Captain) in recognition of the courage and seaman-ship displayed by him when the lifeboat Mickie Salvesen rescued two of the crew and saved the bulk cement carrier B C Mercurius which had broken down and was drifting approximately one mile north of Noup Head, Westray, in a northerly gale and very rough seas on 13 September 1988.

The old berth, used by the Clyde lifeboat, was found unsuitable for the new Arun class lifeboat because of the lack of depth and the excessive movement, so dredging and sheet piling was carried out on the station's new berth, situated inside the Knuckle.


New Shore Facility building constructed adjacent to new berth. It includes a general purpose room, workshop, changing room and toilet/shower facilities.


Severn class lifeboat ON 1231 Margaret Foster was placed on service. The lifeboat was funded by Miss M E Foster.


Doctors Vellum awarded to a local GP, Doctor Peter Fay, who went out on the lifeboat in a south easterly Force 9 Strong Gale, a heavy swell and very rough seas on 10 September. Doctor Fay and crew member Robert Hall were transferred onto the Rig Support Vessel Stream Truck, where a crew member had suffered a heart attack. Despite suffering severe sea sickness Doctor Fay aided by Robert Hall, stabilised the man’s condition. The weather conditions precluded transfer back to the lifeboat until the shelter of Kirkwall Bay was reached.


A new pontoon berth completed in January at a cost of £138,537.


The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to Second Coxswain Stewart Ryrie in recognition of his courage, leadership, determination and boat handling when the lifeboat went to the aid of a yacht in Mill Bay, Stronsay. En route to Stronsay in heavy seas, a severe easterly gale and rain squalls, the lifeboat fell into a trough. Despite all the crew being strapped into their seats, one crew member was injured. The lifeboat diverted to Whitchall harbour in Stronsay for him to be evacuated to hospital. Coxswain Ryrie then took on board a local fisherman, Bill Miller, who volunteered to make up the crew.  Approaching Mill Bay in total darkness and rough seas, the lifeboat broached on two occasions, however, the bay was entered and the yacht located. A line was passed, and with the yacht secured, the lifeboat anchored for the night. Passage to safety was resumed as dawn broke, as the weather had now abated.


A Framed letter of thanks signal by the Chairman of the RNLI, Admiral the Lord Boyce was presented to Coxswain Geoff Gardens in recognition of his leadership, seamanship and boat handling during an arduous 8½ hour service to the yacht Black Sheep. In severe weather conditions a tow was established, enabling the yacht, with its lone exhausted skipper to be towed to the safety of Peirowall on 24 May 2011.