Sea disaster survivor’s descendant alive today due to 125 year-old legacy

Lifeboats News Release

RNLI volunteer crew member, Kirstan Gorvin, is alive today because of one of the most significant legacy bequests the RNLI charity has ever received, marked by the charity today during this year’s Remember a Charity Week.

RNLI/Karl Davies

RNLI crew member Kirstan Gorvin

Birmingham Timber merchant, James Stevens’ 1894 legacy of £50,000 – valued at £6.4M in today’s money – funded 20 lifeboats in total; the crews of which saved over 1,000 lives across the 37 years the James Stevens 1-20 lifeboats were in service.

Kirstan’s great-great-grandfather was saved from drowning in 1906, when his ship was dismasted off the coast of Cornwall. The then RNLI volunteer crew at St Ives, who sailed the James Stevens 10, went to the floundering ship’s aid and saved the lives of all aboard the vessel.

RNLI Crew member, Kirstan Gorvin and his 16 year-old son, Tristan, who joined the charity as an RNLI lifeguard this year, both help save lives off the Cornish coast. Kirstan says:

‘If James Stevens hadn’t remembered the RNLI when writing his Will, I wouldn’t be here today, and neither would my children. It’s so inspiring to think that one supporter’s legacy has meant my family has continued through the generations, and we’ve been able to give back by joining the charity to continue saving lives at sea.

‘At the RNLI we say “legacies are our lifeline”. Having the right kit to protect us from the elements, funding for vital training and strong and capable lifeboats, are all crucial to enable us to carry out our 24/7 lifesaving work as safely as possible.

‘Any gift – large or small – is greatly appreciated by all the volunteer crews across the UK and Ireland, as more people than ever need our help.’

Coincidentally, unaware of the family connection, Kirstan and his wife bought James Stevens 10 lifeboat in 2002. It was only when restoring the vessel to its former glory that they discovered Kirstan’s great-great-grandfather, Captain Carbines, was rescued by the then St Ives lifeboat volunteer crew.

The 1894 legacy funded 20 lifeboats in total, named similarly: James Steven 1 through to James Stevens 20, and were on service for 37 years at 30 different lifeboat stations, including Dublin, Cornwall, Isle of Man, Isle of Wight, Anglesey, Fife, Essex and Great Yarmouth (see full list below).

Volunteer crews launching these lifeboats saved the lives of 1,072 people between 1896-1933, with some crew being posthumously decorated gallantry medals, for their roles in saving people who were in distress at sea, including during World War I.

In 2018, it cost £163.5M/€184.3M to run the RNLI. The value of legacy gifts is still apparent for the charity today, with six out of every 10 lifeboat launches only possible due to gifts left in Wills. For information about remembering a charity in your Will, visit

Media interview opportunity

RNLI crew member Kirstan Gorvin and RNLI Area Lifesaving Manager, Guy Botterill are available on Wed 11 September (11am-12pm) at Sennen Cove Lifeboat Station (Cornwall) or via telephone.

Notes to editors

· Lifeboats James Stevens 1-20 were stationed at England: Hilbre Island (Wirral), Grimsby (Lincolnshire), Gorleston (Great Yarmouth), Totland Bay (IoW), Dover, New Romney (Kent), Padstow, Newquay, Porthoustock, St Ives (Cornwall), Eastbourne (Sussex), Wells (Norfolk), Southend-on-Sea, Walton-on-the-Naze (Essex) Scotland: Campeltown, Newburgh, Girvan, Johnshaven (Aberdeenshire), Arbroath, Ardrossan Ireland: Queenstown (Cork), Fenit, Howth (Dublin) Wexford, Helvick Head

Wales: Angle, Holyhead, The Mumbles.
Isle of Man: Port St Mary. Plus, some vessels served as relief lifeboats at other stations.

· The James Stevens 10 lifeboat is under the ownership of RNLI St Ives’ mechanic, Robin Langford, who is working with the community to turn it into a pleasure boat, with profits going back into the local area.

· Photographs of the James Stevens lifeboats are available on request.

RNLI media contacts

For more information please contact the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789 or email [email protected] or telephone Donna Atkins, RNLI PR Manager on or 01202 336064 or email [email protected].

About Remember a Charity Week

Remember A Charity Week is organised by charity consortia Remember A Charity, which aims to shine a light on the importance of gifts in Wills to charities. Currently only 6% of those that write Wills, go on to remember a charity. Between 9-15 September 2019, around 200 charities will come together, encouraging people to leave charitable gifts in Wills and, by doing so, pass on something wonderful to the next generation.

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.