Double celebration as St Davids RNLI marks two historic milestones
RNLI volunteers at St Davids are ready for an exciting double celebration today (Tuesday 14 March) as their new lifeboat is named and their new boathouse is declared officially open.
More than 200 dignitaries, invited guests and lifeboat volunteers will be in attendance as the station’s £2.7M Tamar class lifeboat Norah Wortley is named on one of the biggest days in the station’s 148-year history.
St Davids’ new state-of-the-art £10M lifeboat station, which took two years to build in one of the most remote corners of the Welsh coastline, will also be officially opened.
Dozens of past and present lifeboat crew from decades of saving lives at sea in St Davids will be on hand to help usher in the new era. There will also be a nod to the past as the Watson class lifeboat Joseph Soar, which served St Davids RNLI for 22 years until 1985, will be afloat in the waters off the station for the event.
The new Tamar class lifeboat was funded by the generosity of Diana Symon, of Newton Abbot, Devon, who died in 2010. Her legacy, as well as donations from her charitable trust, funded the 25-knot lifeboat, which is named in memory of her mother Norah Wortley-Talbot.
Mrs Symon’s grandparents were owners of the Blue Funnel shipping line based in Liverpool and were part of a nautical family. Mrs Symon and her sister Phoebe spent much of their early lives sailing with the Blue Funnel line and in later life Diana Symon and her husband enjoyed sailing their own yacht.
St Davids RNLI’s crew of volunteers are already familiar with the lifeboat as it has been launching to maritime emergencies from a floating mooring for a couple of years while the new station was under construction. It has already launched 63 times on service and helped St Davids crew rescue 50 people and save four lives.
Now it has pride of place in its new home on the top of the slipway in the newly completed lifeboat station.
During a ceremony with music from Goodwick Brass Band and Haverfordwest Male Voice Choir, Linda Grafton, a long-time friend of Diana Symon, will hand Norah Wortley over to RNLI Operations Director George Rawlinson. He will then pass her over to Captain James Wilcox, Lifeboat Operations Manager at St Davids RNLI, who will accept her on behalf of the station and its volunteers.
Champagne will then be poured over the bow as Mrs Grafton officially names the lifeboat.
CAPT Wilcox said: ‘This is a day all our volunteers have been looking forward to for years and it is a great honour to be asked to accept the lifeboat on behalf of St Davids RNLI.
‘The thanks of everyone connected to St Davids RNLI goes out to Diana Symon and all the other donors who made this day possible. Their generosity and the support of the local community mean our volunteers will be able to save lives at sea off the coast of St Davids for many more years to come.’
Michael Vlasto, former RNLI Operations Director, will then be invited to declare the new boathouse open. He will unveil a slate plaque crafted by former St Davids lifeboat Coxswain Malcolm Gray.
The new station building, which is situated around 100m from the historic former boathouse at St Justinian, was a feat of engineering built at the base of some of the St Davids Peninsula’s most remote coastal cliffs.
As well as the slipway for the Tamar class lifeboat, the new boathouse has additional space to accommodate the smaller D-class inshore lifeboat. Its facilities include a drying room for kit and better provision for crew training and equipment maintenance. There is better access to the station, which is important for the delivery of equipment and, more importantly, for the evacuation of casualties brought in by the lifeboat
Matt Crofts, RNLI Lifesaving Manager, said: ‘This was amongst the most ambitious build projects the RNLI has undertaken in recent years. Primary contractors BAM Nuttall and everyone else involved deserve huge credit for finding ways to get the job done in some of the most challenging environmental conditions.
‘We hope this building is something the St Davids RNLI volunteers, the local community and the whole charity can be proud of. It will ensure the legacy of lifesaving which so many generations have dedicated their lives to will continue for many more generations to come.’
Funding for the lifeboat station was contributed to by a number of generous donations, as well as a huge boost from the local community fundraising appeal, which was fronted by former Welsh football and rugby internationals Ian Walsh and Gerald Davies and raised more than £214,000.
After the ceremony Norah Wortley will launch down the slipway and carry out a display of manoeuvres in the bay.
Notes to editors:
For more information on the RNLI’s Tamar class lifeboats visit https://rnli.org/what-we-do/lifeboats-and-stations/our-lifeboat-fleet/tamar-class-lifeboat
Videos of St Davids RNLI’s Tamar class lifeboat Norah Wortley in rescue action are available on request.
Pictures will be taken and distributed by the RNLI media team after the event on Tuesday (14 March).
For more information please contact Chris Cousens, RNLI Press Officer (Wales and West) on 07748 265496 or 01745 585162 or by email on Chris_Cousens@rnli.org.uk.
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.