People with a close affiliation with Port Talbot RNLI will come together for a unique coffee morning to celebrate the station’s successes during half a century of lifesaving.
From an author who has written a book chronicling the station’s history, to people who were rescued by the lifeboat crew, it will be a morning to reflect on the station’s achievements.
Central to celebrations will be Jean Jones, who has been part of the station since it was established in the 1960s. Jean and a group of friends came together to raise funds for the RNLI nearly 50 years ago and from there, it was decided to form a ladies section.
Mel Cooper, RNLI Lifeboat Press Officer for Port Talbot says:
‘The ladies section was established and held various functions to raise funds, concerts, dances, cocktail parties etc which proved to be a great success. Jean was there from the very beginning and is still going strong today, fifty years on and loving every minute of it.’
Jean served as souvenir secretary for many years, selling RNLI products from the spare bedroom at home, as there was no shop in the original station. When the new station was opened in 1999, Jean continued in her fundraising role running the new lifeboat shop and being part of the local committee.
For her services to the RNLI, she was awarded the Institutions Gold badge in 2006, having previously received the bronze and silver badges. To cap it all she has just been notified that this year she is to be presented with a bar to her gold badge at a ceremony in the Guildhall, Swansea in September.
Jean will join in the unique coffee morning, along with both current and former volunteer crew who will reflect on how the station has changed over the years. Historic images will be available and author Alec Stewart, who was a volunteer when the station first opened its doors on 21 May 1966 will introduce his historic book to the volunteers.
Having only produced three copies of the book, one of which will be kept in the town’s library, the little piece of history will be treasured by the station for many years to come.
Also joining station personnel during the celebratory coffee morning will be crew member Tom Hewlett who had a very special reason for joining Port Talbot RNLI. In July 2014, the experienced fisherman got into trouble on the River Neath and was rescued by Port Talbot RNLI.
‘I went fishing in the River Neath without first checking the tide times. Being a stranger to the area, I had no idea I could be cut off by the tide. I was standing on a small pinnacle of rock fishing when I realised the incoming tide had cut off my route back to the river bank.
‘I rang the coastguard on my mobile and the lifeboat was launched to my rescue. After being safely back on shore I decided to look into volunteering with Port Talbot RNLI. I felt it was a very worthwhile cause and a way to show my gratitude for saving me.
‘I have been at the station for nearly two years and almost completed my training, which I hope to do shortly. I have also been to the RNLI College at Poole. I would recommend anyone to join the RNLI, it is a very interesting voluntary organisation and I get a great deal of satisfaction from being a part of it.’
Next weekend will see the crew come together at the Aberafon Beach Hotel on 28 May for a special anniversary dinner to mark the occasion.
The first D-class lifeboat was first placed on service in Port Talbot on 22 May 1966. The station’s current D class lifeboat D713 Nigel Martin Spender was placed on service on 17 March 2009.
Robbie Harris, RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager at Port Talbot says:
‘Keeping a station afloat for 50 years is no mean feat, but we have been very lucky to have never struggled to find competent crew in all these years. We have a great family in Port Talbot and are so well supported by our fundraisers who keep us afloat. It’s a real treat to see people from our past and present coming together to celebrate this very special occasion for us all.’
Notes to Editors
Please find attached a j-peg image of Jean Jones, with Port Talbot RNLI volunteer Kyle James.
Also attached is a video of the day current RNLI volunteer Tom Hewlett was rescued.
Event: The media are invited to Port Talbot RNLI lifeboat station as the station gears up to celebrate 50 years of saving lives at sea.
When: 20 May, 2016 at 10am for photographs/interview. The lifeboat will launch on exercise at approximately 11am.
Where: Port Talbot RNLI lifeboat station, Princess Margaret Way, Neath & Port Talbot, SA12 6QW.
For further information, please contact Danielle Rush, RNLI Public Relations Manager in Wales on 01745 585162 or 07786 668829 or Mel Cooper, Lifeboat Press Officer at Port Talbot on 07814 985057.
Key facts about the RNLI
The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.
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Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries
Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.