Fortunately, for some the DNA and brine is inevitable, born to wear yellow wellies and inherited the intrinsic desire to help others.
Poole lifeboat volunteers shared their memories on Fathers day of growing up in a lifeboat family and then themselves joining the crew.
At Poole we have 7 volunteers that have continued the family tradition of which 2, are third generation lifeboat families.
In the ebb and flow of the busy world we now inhabit there has been quite a few changes and hearing the stories from the early days of life-boating its very different today and its also a wonder that they made it through, as things then would have been frowned upon by H & S today and there seems to be lots of 'abandoned' children.
Lizz Parry's dad Roger was Hon Sec when Lizz was growing up, Lizz is our volunteer administrator, Lizz shared some of her story;
I remember the radio always being on at home, the noise of the constant 'radio checks' and chatter is still something I like to have rumbling in the background of my day. I remember being in the station, the blue cushions, watching the bridge go up and the people stopping by, calling in to chat. I remember Dad having some fantastic friendships which sometimes meant extended sailing trips away with a certain well-known Pub Landlord, Jim Kellaway who was a DLA and other bad influences who are still very much in his life such as Mike Brooks who was also a DLA.
It was rare to see Dad anywhere other than at work growing up, so having the station in his life was good to see and it established those lifelong friendships.
When my partner Huggy joined the crew, it was so great to be part of things again and then to be able to volunteer myself and do my little bit, this to me is a privilege plus there is still a fair few of those faces from my childhood still here!
My oldest Son is back from Uni soon and hoping to join up at some point too. There are so many family histories within any station you go to which is testament to how good it is to be part of all of this'.
Lewis Singleton, had grown up with lifeboats, his
dad was Paul aka 'Flipper' a much-loved character, always in and around Poole Quay and a very busy Senior Helm and deputy Coxswain.
'I knew no other way of life than my dad’s pager going off and him rushing to get his car keys and then just driving off. This was a way of life for me and I remember being told when I was around 2 that I used to just shout “Bleeper (old word for pagers) 'Going off” and then just take it all my stride and carry on doing whatever I was doing!
I had a very good social life being part of the RNLI including starring (along with my older sister) in an episode of Barnaby on TV. My dad of course was also appearing in the show as part of the lifeboat crew. My dad also appeared in the Tweenies and also in the documentary about Poole Lifeboat Station, this was pre 'Saving Lives at Sea' and was on Meridian, some of the production crew, actually carried a pager and joined the lifeboat crew, they were with the lifeboat all summer and it was a busy summer. It was a good insight and by then I had grown up a bit and grown out of the Tweenies, but I remember my dad on TV I was very proud.
My most vivid memories of the pager going off as I got older is that me and my sister were very often out and about with my dad, his pager would go off and he used to leave us in the boathouse with whoever didn’t go on the shout and they would have to call my mum to come and collect us!
My dad used to talk about his lifeboat shouts all the time and it was his passion and this rubbed off on me. I knew how much my dad enjoyed his time on the crew and I wanted to be part of that so in June 2012 I finally got to join as I had reached the required age of 17 and I haven’t look back'.
Alex Evans is third generation lifeboat volunteer following in his father's - Wayne Evans and grandfather’s welly boots, they were on the crew at Porthcawl Lifeboat Station in South Wales. Alex joined the RNLI when he was 17 years old in 1999.
'My first memory of my dad being a lifeboat man was when we would be in the garden and the maroons (2 big bangs in the sky) would sound and he would vanish running away in his flip flops.
As the maroons turned to pagers, I was old enough to be allowed to jump in the car and go with him, ensuring he’d turned his headlights off before going into the station after him.
In those days the station kids used to get the D Class ready to launch, rig up the rope, block and tackle and push the boat out of the station while our dads put their dry suits on.
The grown-ups would then arrive and launch the boat. We would help recover the trailer as there were no tractors back then.
It seemed like an eternity until I was 17, and a few days after my birthday I went on my first ‘shout’ which was authorised by my great uncle who was a DLA. I remember it well, a capsized speedboat far offshore which we had been watching thinking it was a windsurfer while eating our chips on the slipway. Turned out it was a man sitting on the hull of his boat! 20 years and 3 stations later I now volunteer at Poole and work for the RNLI as the Training Manager'.
Tom Elton, shared his memories as he followed his dad, Andy Elton who was 2nd Coxswain and Mechanic onto the Poole crew;
'Growing up as a son of a lifeboat man, was always an excitement. There was always something going on, whether it was the pager going off and him rushing away.
I was always roped in to help from a young age at events like Open Days and cleaning down the boat and polishing the brass, when my dad was mechanic there was always lots of jobs to do and I liked hanging out with him.
There’s always been a family feel, growing up there with other kids my age around, which meant being left at the station wasn’t always too bad. The first time I remember being left on my own at the station, was when dad (Andy Elton) got a page and he said ‘I won’t be going out I’m just going to get the boat started’ and sent me upstairs to watch, when looking out the window, I remember watching him wave at me, as the lines dropped and they were off !
In shock, I realised no one was left, until Rod Brown came upstairs with trays of donuts. telling me to eat as many as I could!'
Lily Clark has just joined the crew at 17, she is also third generation lifeboat volunteer following her granddad and dad, her dad is Poole's longest serving volunteer, who she will be hopefully serving alongside
'All my life there has been lifeboats, pictures on the walls at home, visiting other stations whilst on holiday, background annoying radio, tide tables and my parents’ pagers going off, all hours of the day and night.
I was lucky as when we were down the station and dad had to go, I could walk home as we live the closest.
At home when the pager goes off, I wake up and shout, ‘bye dad’ and go back to sleep thinking, he will be out all night and when dad was coxswain on the Tyne we would listen for the engines rumble, I miss the Tyne.
Low water shouts, in the late afternoon we remember really well as when dad went off, we would switch TV channels and watch ‘The Simpsons’ the radio would be on and we would listen for the crew list, if they said number 1, mum said we were alright and could watch the whole episode.
I don’t think I can have a better teacher then my dad,‘number 1’, to share his knowledge, the crew have made me feel very welcome, though Poole lifeboat has always been my 2nd home and I know granddad would be proud too'.
Lily's dad Jon Clark's memories are very different from Lily's. Jon has seen a lot of changes during his time and he served alongside his dad John Clark.
'I remember that we had a telephone downstairs and a telephone installed in my mum and dad’s bedroom, this was a long time before pagers and the Hon Sec would telephone the crew individually when there was a ‘Shout’. Dad would get dressed and head off in his car and if the wind was in the right direction, 20 minutes later you could hear the Detroit engines start up on the Waveney, then straining you ears as it headed off down the harbour. When I joined the crew and my dad was 2nd Coxswain, we joked that we saved the RNLI money as you got two crew for one phone call.
The crew I grew up with and looked up to were classed as my ‘Uncles’ and there was lots of banter, I spent my youth polishing the brass, cleaning the boats, firing the maroons and one summer with Bobby Ide, we learnt how to swim off the back of the Dory inshore Lifeboat.
I absorbed so much life boating from the old boys, there was some real characters and great role models like my godfather Dave Coles, I studied paper charts and dead reckoning as it was pre GPS, we never had personal kit, everything was shared as there was only one set of kit for each boat, there was no drying rooms or heaters and putting on wet kit was something you don’t forget.
I remember when dad served at the Old lifeboat Museum and if we were down there and the lifeboat launched, he would tell me ‘go up the old wooden stairs in the loft and wait’, whilst I was there I would untangle the rocket lines and look out the window, waiting for them to come back'.
Ed Davies shared his recollections of his dad, Glyn Davis who was a Helm at Aberdyfi, which is a small idyllic coastal village in west Wales. Ed is now a Helm at Poole lifeboat and works at the RNLI as a Senior Naval Architect
'There was nothing quite like the excitement of the pager going off during the summer when hundreds of people would gather to see the boat off.
I'd make sure I told as many people as possible that my Dad was on-board!
Sometimes the tractor driver would let me sit in the cab of the caterpillar tractor while we waited ashore, which was obviously the coolest thing ever.
I have always been so proud of everything my Dad has done for the RNLI and I loved to hear him talk about the rescues he's done.
I couldn't wait to join the crew and it felt like forever until I was finally allowed to join when I turned 17'.
Ed received a special father’s day present (as did some of the other Dads), a drawing by our station illustrator (we have just created that role) Gemma Gill, who captured succinctly,what it is like to be a lifeboat kid, kind of in awe of what your dad does but its the family norm, just matter-of-factly on call, every day, there to help people. What a great fathers day present, the image of Ed with his young children maybe the next generation of lifesavers?
Living with the lifeboat, growing up with a pager and a commitment in your day to day life is something that is special and I think Lily sums it up;
'Its just there when you are growing up and then the pager can be embarrassing I remember it going off when we were in the school hall, at a DoE presentation evening, it sounded so loud and dad had to go through all the people to get out of the ‘silent’ hall, not my best memory but now I am older, I get it and I understand that he makes a difference and he saves lives, how many can say that about their dads.
Happy Fathers day and thank you dads for all that you do and thank you lifeboat kids for sharing them, unconditionally.
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 over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, 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.