Fundraiser celebrates 100th birthday by ringing bell in RNLI lifeboat launch

Lifeboats News Release

Joan Webb has celebrated her 100th birthday this week by ringing the bell to launch the latest RNLI Shannon class lifeboat.

Fundraiser Joan Webb is seen alongside an RNLI employee ringing the ceremonial bell at the All Weather Lifeboat centre in Poole.

RNLI/Nathan Williams

Joan Webb rings the ceremonial bell at the ALC for the launch of new Shannon lifeboat

Since she was a little girl, Joan has been hugely dedicated to supporting the charity’s lifesaving work, despite never living close to the shoreline. To help celebrate her birthday this year, the RNLI invited Joan to be the guest of honour for and carry out the tradition of ringing the bell to mark the launch of the latest Shannon class lifeboat from the charity’s All-Weather Lifeboat Centre (ALC) in Poole. This, the 34th Shannon class lifeboat, will be stationed at Rhyl Lifeboat Station​.

Joan believes supporting the RNLI from her home in Basingstoke is just as important as if she lived right on the coastline. Following in her mother’s footsteps, Joan says:

‘My mother was a loyal RNLI supporter, so she got me involved first. I remember standing eagerly with her while she volunteered at church-gate collections when I was four or five years old, as tall as her waist.’

Her family would often tell her tales of RNLI volunteers saving lives at sea, exceeding 142,700 since the charity was founded in 1824.

RNLI Manufacturing Manager, Dan Sharp, says:

‘The ringing of the bell is a tradition for all new lifeboats. We like to mark the occasion because the lifeboat will be hitting the water for the first time and will go on to save lives over the next 50 years. The bell is rung eight times as this also happens on board naval ships during the Changing of the Watch.’

Joan has helped the charity in a multitude of ways since she started volunteering for the Basingstoke and District RNLI Branch back in the early 80’s. She would often help with supermarket collections, coffee mornings and Christmas card sales.

In 1985, she took on the role of box secretary at the branch so was responsible for collecting and distributing fundraising boxes in shops, bars and restaurants for over 20 years.

This isn’t the first time the RNLI has recognised what a huge asset Joan has been to the charity. The RNLI awarded Joan with the Bronze Badge in 1997, the Silver Badge in 2004 and the Gold Badge in 2016.

Group of spectators join Joan Webb to watch the newest RNLI Shannon lifeboat hit the water for the first time.

RNLI/Nathan Williams

Joan Webb celebrates her 100th birthday after the launch of the newest RNLI Shannon lifeboat

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.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

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.