Lifeboats News Release

Seahouses Lifeboat Station has its first female Tractor Driver, the third generation of her family to perform the role.

Susan in work uniform beside the Talus Tractor

RNLI/Ian Clayton

Susan Calvert in work uniform beside the Talus Tractor

Susan Calvert works for Barclays and her role takes her around a number of bank branches in North Northumberland. Susan decided to join the RNLI as a member of the shore crew, helping to launch and recover the station’s Mersey Class All Weather Lifeboat and D Class Inshore Lifeboat. Then Susan decided to follow a family tradition, and she began to learn how to drive the large Talus tractor, used to launch and recover the All Weather Lifeboat. After a period of training, it was not long before she was passed out as a fully qualified and competent tractor driver, becoming the first female tractor driver at Seahouses.

Susan's father, Archbold Dawson, had been a tractor driver before her, as had her uncle, the late Ronnie Dawson, and her grandfather, Ralph Dawson, who had driven the first tractor to operate at the station in the early 1960’s. Prior to that, it was muscle power alone that was needed to launch the lifeboat, and the village would usually turn out in force to help, when the call out maroons (two exploding flares – now discontinued) were fired. These gave two bright flashes in the sky and very loud aerial detonations, alerting the crew and the community, leaving no one in doubt that the lifeboat was needed.

To add to the family connection, Susan's husband Neil, who is a gas turbine engineer, has been an RNLI Volunteer Crewman at Seahouses Lifeboat Station for a number of years, and is now a Volunteer Mechanic there.

If working in Seahouses, Susan has authority to leave if her call-out pager sounds. One moment she can be busy in the bank, helping customers and managing staff, and minutes later she can be pulling on her RNLI kit and climbing aboard the Talus Tractor, to launch the Mersey Class Lifeboat, so it can perform its RNLI role to help save lives at sea.

Lifeboat Operations Manager at Seahouses, Ian Clayton, said, 'It’s great to see a family tradition continuing, and Susan plays a key role in our highly motivated team of volunteers, ready to answer the call 24/7, 365 days a year. The Talus Tractor is a complex large piece of machinery, requiring a degree of skill to operate it safely, and Susan has successfully risen to the challenge, as well as becoming our first female tractor driver !. We also appreciate employers like Barclays, who encourage their staff to volunteer in the community. Having an ample pool of volunteers, ensures that Lifeboats can quickly respond to an emergency at any time of the day or night.'

Susan with father Archbold Dawson (former Tractor Driver)

RNLI/Ian Clayton

Susan with father Archbold Dawson (former Tractor Driver)
Susan with her Lifeboat kit, ready to launch

RNLI/Ian Clayton

Susan with her Lifeboat kit, ready to launch

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 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.