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Unsung hero Frances Hudson

A volunteer describes her recent experience helping to preserve old photographs for future generations.

RNLI volunteer Frances Hudson

Photo: RNLI/Nathan Williams

What is your role?

I’ve been cleaning and digitising glass plates, part of a large collection of old lifeboat photographs acquired by the RNLI’s Heritage Team from the Beken family. I’ve also been finding out a bit about the lifeboats in the photographs.

Why do you volunteer?

The RNLI is very important to me. I have family and friends who are lifeboat crew or who are in the merchant navy. My goddaughter is learning to swim and I see the lifeguards on the beaches in Poole, Dorset. I wanted to be part of the volunteer team and, because of my interest in photography, I was really excited to be part of this project.

Did you have any doubts about volunteering with the RNLI?

I was nervous about fitting in, especially in an environment I didn’t know. One of the other volunteers helped me work out what to do, and once I’d got into the swing of it I was OK. I have a disability and from my interview onwards everyone was helpful and supportive of my additional needs. Little things they have done along the way have made volunteering possible and comfortable. I’m listened to and encouraged to say if anything can be made better.

Beken glass plate photograph

Do you have a favourite photograph?

No particular favourite. It’s been fascinating seeing the details inside the lifeboat cabins and the pictures of the crew. I realised how incredibly steady the photographer was; all the horizons are level and so clear!

What would you say to someone else thinking about volunteering?

This was a great opportunity to touch history and be involved in such a unique project. I would say to anybody thinking of volunteering to come along and give it a try. You may discover skills you didn’t know you had.

There is a huge variety in RNLI volunteer roles – find the one for you.