Oban RNLI Lifeboat offers sincere thanks to long serving crew member

Lifeboats News Release

It is with some sadness we announce the retirement of Dr Colin Wilson as a volunteer crew member of Oban RNLI Lifeboat.

RNLI/Leonie Mead

Colin has served the RNLI in Oban since 1990, first joining when the station had the Brede class lifeboat, ‘Ann Ritchie’. It was a love of the sea that drew Colin to sign up with the lifesaving charity, he said “I wanted to help those in distress.”

Since joining, Colin has become a dedicated crew member and an integral part of the station’s family, contributing to many call outs, training exercises and fundraising events.

It would appear that 30 years serving one of Scotland’s busiest all-weather lifeboats has resulted in some astonishing statistics, too. Colin has attended a total of 660 call outs. His presence on call outs alone has seen him spend over 1100 hours at sea, travel 12,668 miles and burn 159,891 litres of fuel. That’s excluding the many exercises and delivery trips he has also participated in.

The mileage Colin has clocked up while responding to his pager is equivalent to travelling, by sea, from Oban to Sydney via Cape Horn. Or in simpler terms, half way around the world.

In addition to the time he has given our station, Colin’s 35 years experience as a local GP and time served as a senior partner of the Lorn Medical Centre has seen his voluntary role extend further within the RNLI. He has contributed as a Lifeboat Medical Adviser and Regional Medical Adviser for Scotland as well as serving on the charity’s Medical committee.

Colin’s medical knowledge and expertise in both diving medicine and treating divers with decompression sickness has proved invaluable and we will forever be grateful for his service and the knowledge he has shared with us all.

Finlo Cottier, a deputy coxswain and crew member of Oban lifeboat, who has served alongside Colin since 2001 said, “It’s always reassuring when you go to sea with Colin amongst the crew. A special blend of knowledge, wisdom and humour.”

Of the 660 call outs attended, we asked Colin if any stood out in his memory. He said “There are a few, but the night of the 28th July 2018 is one of them.”

“It was a really nasty night with winds gusting 60 knots and we received three separate Mayday calls. It was a great crew all working together for good results in adverse weather. Another, was the 10th January 1998.”

Willie Melville documented this callout in his book ‘The Story of Oban Lifeboat’, it reads “One of those services that brings tremendous satisfaction to a coxswain, his crew and the whole station took place on 10 January. Oban Coastguard reported that a canoeist was overdue at Cuil Bay, Duror.”

It continues, “The lifeboat arrived on scene at 1952, first making a counter-clockwise search of the island. As she was veering offshore to avoid the shallows her searchlight picked up the canoeist clinging to the waterlogged canoe some 2 cables offshore.”

“Crew member Dr Colin Wilson assessed the casualty's condition as being serious enough to have him airlifted by the rescue helicopter, also on scene, to hospital in Oban - meantime he was given oxygen on the lifeboat and made as warm as possible.”

Colin recalls “This man was extremely hypothermic and was lucky to be found alive. He survived, and was discharged home the next day. A great result.”

When asked what he will miss most, Colin said, “I will miss working as part of a really great crew and team. I have shared in both the joy of many successes and in the sadness surrounding some less happy events, providing care and support wherever possible.”

“I hope to continue my association with Oban Lifeboat by volunteering in a different capacity.”

Colin passes on his thanks to fellow crew members, “I thank all crew, past and present, for great memories of working in a fantastic team, in training, in fundraising and ultimately, while out at sea on shouts.”

“I also salute all those who support the RNLI throughout the country in the many ways they do, helping those in trouble at sea.”

Ian Henry, fellow crew member of Oban lifeboat for over 30 years, reflects on Colin’s time afloat, “Colin has been an absolute stalwart and aside from being a mentor, font of knowledge, medical advisor both formal and informal, medicinal coffee prescriber, he has first and foremost been a friend. I know I speak for everyone when I say the door is always open.”

We’d like to thank Colin for his commitment and dedication over the years. His presence at sea will be missed, but his place in our lifeboat family remains. We all wish him the very best for his well earned time on dry land.

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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