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Portush Lifeguard Annie Jagoe, standing on a beach and smiling at the camera. She's wearing a red RNLI lifeguard fleece with a walkie talkie strapped across her. You can see a red and yellow lifeguard flag in the background.

International Women’s Day: Hear from 10 female lifesavers

Annie Jagoe, Portush Lifeguard  Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard

For 200 years, women have saved lives, launched lifeboats and raised money to help keep the RNLI afloat. To celebrate International Women’s Day, here are 10 stories from women of the RNLI today. 

Natasha Banks, RNLI Naval Architect 

Having always enjoyed STEM subjects at school, Natasha went on to study Marine Technology at Newcastle University. Although she once wondered if engineering was for her, she found her niche at the RNLI. Now a Naval Architect, Natasha talks about what she enjoys about the role, the pivotal part her mentor played in setting her on her path, and about the prospect of becoming a mentor herself.

Lucy Crichard, the RNLI’s first sustainability apprentice

Lucy Crichard, winner of the MAKE UK Business Apprentice Rising Star award for the South-West, believes we can all be change-makers. 

Hear why she started a Sustainability Champions newsletter, and why she takes part in the RNLI’s annual Women in Engineering Day – an event that allows schoolgirls to take part in STEM activities.

Lucy also talks about how climate change affects sea-goers here and now, revealing why the RNLI maintains close ties with organisations like Surfers Against Sewage.

Kate Eardley, Co-leader of the International Team

Kate Eardley talks about the RNLI’s work supporting drowning prevention in more than 40 countries across the world. She shares the humbling experience of meeting families who have lost children to drowning, and the remarkable stories of people making a difference on the ground.

Annie Jagoe, Portrush Lifeguard 

When Portrush Lifeguard Annie Jagoe heard the words: ‘Unconscious body in the water’ over her VHF radio, she scanned Benone Beach. Hearing that the casualty couldn’t move, Annie grabbed her spinal board.

Matthew, the surfer that Annie and her fellow lifeguards aided that day, was told he’d never walk again. A year later, on the anniversary of the accident, Mathew made a return to the water. And Annie was at his side.

Aileen Jones, Helm at Porthcawl RNLI

Aileen Jones, the first female helm at Porthcawl RNLI, takes us back to 24 August 2004 – the day she helped to save two lives. This rescue resulted in Aileen becoming the charity’s first female crew member to be awarded an RNLI Gallantry Medal. What advice would she give to aspiring lifesavers?

Anna Heslop, Helm at Cullercoats RNLI

When Anna joined Cullercoats RNLI at 17, she was the only woman at the station. Now there are nine women involved – including Anna’s partner, Jane, and Anna’s mother, who is the station’s lifeboat operations manager.

Anna talks about her experience of being a female helm, and about how, in December 2022, the Cullercoats lifeboat launched with the first all-female crew – a proud moment for the station.

Eleanor Hooker, Poet and Helm at Lough Derg RNLI

When Eleanor Hooker was invited to write a poem to mark the RNLI’s 200th anniversary, she knew a sugary tribute wasn’t her style. It couldn’t capture the tangle of raw emotions she’d witnessed first-hand on lifeboat rescues. 

Instead, she drew on her own experience of being saved. Find a quiet moment to listen to this episode and let Eleanor’s evocative storytelling transport you to the dark waters of Lough Derg and the calm she found there, floating. 

Janet Madron, Volunteer at Penlee RNLI

In 1981, Janet’s husband Stephen was one of eight courageous men who were lost in the Penlee tragedy. Hear Janet’s deeply personal account of the disaster – a story of one village’s lost sons, and the hope their loved ones rediscovered. 

Janet shares why she still loves being an RNLI volunteer and talks about the honour she felt paying the RNLI’s final farewell to our Royal Patron, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Sarah Patterson, Crew Member at Peterhead RNLI

Sarah Patterson isn’t your average beauty queen. Not only did she win the title of Miss European Global in 2022, she’s also the youngest member of Peterhead’s lifeboat crew. 

Hear how the competition involved Sarah stepping out of her comfort zone – and how she hopes to inspire other young women thinking about joining the RNLI to go for it.

Anne Scott, stalwart RNLI volunteer

One of Anne’s earliest memories is of being 4 or 5 and trying to stay awake – not for Santa Claus, but for her dad, the mechanic at Cromarty Lifeboat, to return home from a shout. Her uncle John was RNLI crew too, and her mother a passionate fundraiser.

Fittingly, Anne later became an RNLI Fundraising Manager and supported events in her patch of Scotland. But when she retired, the Buckie lifeboat crew had other ideas. Anne talks about her latest role as Lifeboat Operations Manager at Buckie, what being involved with the crew means to her, and about another indelible memory – lifeboat crew members putting on their best Beyoncé in fishnets and stilettos.

All of these stories are from the RNLI’s 200 Voices podcast. Catch up on the rest of our episodes for even more tales of kindness, courage and pride. 

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