‘Without him I wouldn’t know how to live’ – family's Christmas message

Lifeboats News Release

A husband and wife have sent a video message to thank the crew which saved the husband’s life and to lend their support to the RNLI’s Christmas appeal.

Alistair McDonald was rescued by Berwick-Upon-Tweed RNLI in September after his dinghy capsized on the River Tweed. Covid-19 restrictions have prevented him from returning to the station to say thank you in person, so instead he and wife Enid recorded a Christmas message for the crew.

Alistair describes what he can remember of the day: ‘Man overboard is a well-practiced routine for yacht sailors. Sometimes a capsize happens but that's routine also. To avoid unnecessary RNLI shouts we arrange with the Coastguard that they don't launch a rescue without raising us on the radio because concerned members of the public don’t realise that we’re just practising.

‘On the fateful day everything was going as usual, but as I hauled myself back in, she capsized. After several repeated attempts it became clear that something wasn't right. I was using the radio whilst in the water but the Coast Guard couldn't hear me. Fortunately, the RNLI were at the lifeboat house and were watching. They’d decided to launch before the callout came.

I lost consciousness and awoke in the ambulance. The cold pains and violent convulsive shivering were beyond anything I've ever experienced. It is difficult to find adequate words to express our gratitude to so many people. That’s why we’re supporting the Christmas Appeal’

Concluding the video message, Enid says: ‘Alistair is my dearest husband. I love him very much. Without him I wouldn’t know how to live. I’m eternally grateful for his rescue to the RNLI.’

Michael Avril was Helm on the station’s inshore lifeboat (ILB) that day: ‘Alistair is alive today not only through the efforts of our ILB crew that day but also more importantly the help we received from other members of Berwick crew who turned up to help, local boatowners Jake Greer and David Brown who launched their boat to help get Alistair out of the water, the Coastguard who helped our crew with first aid and NEAS paramedics who were quickly on scene and able to treat and transport Alistair to hospital to receive the medical help he required.

‘Usually at Christmas the crew will get together and talk about rescues we’ve performed during the year. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to be reunited with someone we’ve helped. Obviously that can’t happen this year, so we were all so pleased to receive the video message from Alistair and Enid.’

The RNLI is launching its Christmas appeal after losing millions in income as fundraising activities had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. In 2020, the RNLI purchased 6.7 million units of coronavirus PPE including almost 700,000 face masks, 2.4 million gloves and just under 5,000 litres of hand sanitiser, at a cost of £1.2m. This was money the charity hadn’t planned to spend, at a time when RNLI shops were forced to close and fundraising events were cancelled.

RNLI lifesavers have continued to work tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep people safe as lockdown restrictions eased and people flocked to the coast. Over the summer, there was a 64% increase in the number of recreational water users aided by RNLI lifeboats. The charity’s lifeguards also reported an increase in the number of visitors to beaches.

As a charity, the RNLI relies on the support of the public to continue saving lives – and that support is needed now more than ever. Help us brave a wave we never expected. To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal visit: rnli.org/support-us/

Notes to editors

A series of ten photos of the rescue is available on request.

RNLI media contacts and interview requests

For more information, or to request an interview with Alistair or the crew, please contact Jim Rice, RNLI Regional Media Manager, on 07810 658072 or at [email protected]. Alternatively, call the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789 or email [email protected].

McDonald family

Alistair and Enid McDonald

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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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.