Shaun Wright, Blackpool
Blackpool Lifeboat Station and its crew star in the BBC’s Saving Lives at Sea. We recently caught up with Helm Shaun Wright to discuss the documentary and his time with the RNLI.
Day job: Train driver
How long have you been involved with the RNLI? How did you first get involved?
I’ve been on the crew for about 20 years - I’m going to get my 20-year long-service award in September. I used to work next to the pier with a lad who was on the crew. We used to hear a beep and then see him running across the beach. The next minute you’d see the lifeboat rush out to sea. I thought: ‘That looks like a lot of fun,’ so I had a word and he said that they always needed extra launching crew. I went down to the station with him one evening and, 20 years later, I still haven’t left.
Twenty years is a long time to have been on the crew. What’s the best thing about it?
Without a doubt, the best thing is the camaraderie among the crew. We’re a very close-knit crew, which is great, because you’re together for long periods of time. During busy periods, you end up at the station more than you do your home, and it’s great to be with a group of people that you get along with so well.
What about the worst part?
It’s an unavoidable part of the job, but the unsociable hours can be frustrating. Whether you’re asleep at 2am or in the middle of the kids’ nativity play, once you hear that beeping, you have to drop everything and get to the station. And, sadly, when a rescue doesn’t go as you’d hoped and you don’t manage to save a life – maybe the conditions are against you or you couldn’t get there in time – then that’s hard. I’ve been on the crew a long time, so I’m as used to it as you can be, but it’s still hard, especially for the newer crew members.
What do your family and friends think about you being on the crew?
I do give a lot of hours to the station, and there are times when family events suffer a little because of it. Once we were out for a really nice meal when my pager went off, and I had to rush to the station. It was the most expensive meal I never ate! I’ve been with Julie for the past 19 years, so she’s used to it now. She’s put up with a lot! All of my family understand why I do it, and they know it’s an important job. I do get some stick at work because my face is in the paper quite a lot, but that’s about it.
Is there a particular rescue that stands out for you?
A few weeks ago we were called out to help two people with learning difficulties that had been cut off by the tide. They’d headed to the pier for shelter from the sea, but the tide had caught them and they were in trouble. We managed to get to them and get them to safety, and it was a great feeling to know that we’d saved their lives. That’s why we do the job, at the end of the day.
What have you learned during your time with the RNLI?
Hmm, what have I learned? Most importantly, I’ve learned the dangers of the sea and the importance of being safe around it. Before I joined the crew, I didn’t have any real knowledge of the sea and its dangers, so it has been an eye-opening experience. Plus, I’ve taken a lot of courses and qualifications through the RNLI, and now I get to go to other stations and pass my knowledge on by training other crews.
How was it filming the documentary? Was it odd to have the cameras following you around?
Having a camera in your face all of the time did take a little bit of getting used to, but after that we didn’t really notice them. The weirdest bit was the 5 hours we spent at my house filming us having dinner!
Are you looking forward to seeing yourself on TV?
I am – I’m looking forward to seeing how we come across, the footage from out on the rescues and – more importantly – whether I need to go into hiding. I’m guessing that my friends at work will have some more stick for me after it’s gone out!
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