Two Welsh RNLI lifeboat stations chalk up a century of saving lives

Lifeboats Media Invite

RNLI volunteers at Conwy and Port Talbot are putting the final touches in place, as both stations prepare to celebrate 50 years of saving lives at sea.

People with a close affiliation with Port Talbot RNLI will come together for a unique coffee morning on 18 May, 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 Port Talbot RNLI, it will be a morning to reflect on the station’s achievements.
Looking forward to celebrations at Port Talbot is 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.
The current volunteer crew will meet former crew and 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 current crew.
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.
Tom says:
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.’
Central to celebrations at Conwy will be the presentation of an award to their longest-serving volunteer Trevor Jones, who joined Conwy RNLI when it first opened its doors in June 1966. The anniversary will be a momentous occasion for Trevor, who will also this year, receive an award for 50 years of volunteering with the RNLI.
Trevor says:
‘As a young lad, joining the lifeboat was a natural thing for me to do. I was a fisherman on the River Conwy and the two went hand in hand. Back in those days, all the lifeboat crew were fishermen and we knew the river like the back of our hands. We were all confident and felt safe in the environment we worked in, so it seemed like the right thing to do to help others who got into trouble.
‘Now, things are different. None of our current crew are commercial fishermen, they come from all walks of life, and this is why training is more important than ever before. The RNLI provides the very best training and equipment for our crew to do their jobs in the safest possible way and that training is paramount.’
Once he had retired from the crew, Trevor helped authorise the launch of Conwy’s lifeboat, firstly as Deputy Launching Authority progressing to Lifeboat Operations Manager in 2005. He still volunteers today in an administrative role.
Trevor adds:
‘When I first came into the station is was a wooden shed and the lifeboat had nothing like the modern search and rescue equipment it has today. The RNLI has certainly come a long way in half a decade but one thing which hasn’t changed is the fantastic support we have from the public, which keeps us going.’
Also attending the celebratory event on the quay side will be the station’s newest crew members. With them will be crew member Pete Hughes, who is actually the same age as Conwy Lifeboat Station and was encouraged to sign up by Trevor.
The actual anniversary at Conwy will fall on 18 June, when the crew come together at Conwy Comrades Club for an anniversary dinner to mark the occasion.
Conwy RNLI lifeboat station was established in June 1966 when D-class lifeboat D-97 was placed on service.
One of the most memorable services came just four years later in 1970, when Trevor Jones Brian Jones and Ronald Craven rescued two men from the cabin cruiser Fulmar which had broken down one mile west of West Shore, Llandudno on the afternoon of 30 August. The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to all three.
The current D-class lifeboat D-765 The May-Bob was placed on service on 19 March 2014. This lifeboat was provided by the generous bequests of Miss Mavis Kane and her father Mr Robert Kane.
Flint RNLI has also announced it will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The station has opened a small exhibition at Flint Library, which will display photographs of lifeboats pre 1966 to the current day. In May 1966, the RNLI took over the original rescue boat and since then, the volunteer crew have launched 670 times and saved 97 lives.
To mark the anniversary, there will be a coffee morning in the library on 25 May at 10.30am with a presentation about the work of the RNLI.
Media Invite
Event:  Media opportunities to celebrate 50 years of saving lives at sea will be held at Port Talbot and Conwy RNLI lifeboat station. 
At Conwy, there will be an opportunity to interview the station’s longest-serving volunteer, who is marking half a century of saving lives, and the station’s newest recruits.
At Port Talbot, there will be an opportunity to interview a rescuee who is now crew, a fundraiser who joined the station on day one, and an author who has written a book chronicling the station’s 50 year history.
Both lifeboats will launch on exercise during the media opportunities.
When: Wednesday, 18 May, 2016 at 9.15am for photographs/interview at Conwy.
Friday, 20 May, 2016 at 10am at Port Talbot Lifeboat Station.
Notes to Editors
Individual detailed News Releases on Conwy and Port Talbot anniversaries are available on request.
Pictured One: Captain S R Roberts, T.D, Mayor of Conwy with crew members Glyn Craven, Joseph Spencer and John Owen celebrate the opening of the new station on 20 July 1985.
Pictured Two: Jean Jones Port Talbot RNLI fundraiser with crew member Kyle James.
Media Contacts
For further information, please contact Danielle Rush, RNLI Public Relations Manager in Wales on 01745 585162 or 07786 668829.


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, in a normal year, 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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