Oban RNLI crew member hangs up his yellow wellies after 15 years of service
This weekend, Oban Lifeboat bids a fond farewell to volunteer crew and deputy mechanic Donald Matheson, as his time afloat comes to an end.
Donald, known as DM, first joined Oban lifeboat as a volunteer crew member in 2005. His love for the sea drew him to the RNLI and he was encouraged to join by friend Ronnie MacKillop, who was the stations full time coxswain at the time. By 2010 he had passed out as a deputy mechanic.
Outside the RNLI, DM works alongside his brother Neil as the store supervisor of Mathesons, their family run business. But, as a volunteer lifeboat crew member, DM has continuously dropped everything at the sound of his pager to help those in need. He said “A big thanks to all of the bosses who allow their staff to down tools and go out on shouts at a moments notice.”
During 15 years of volunteering, DM has attended 308 call outs. He has travelled 5,192 miles and spent over 500 hours on board the lifeboat, during call outs alone.
Although the main aim of the RNLI remains to save lives at sea, Oban lifeboat has also been present at the birth of new lives at sea. Often called upon to carry out a ‘medivac’, transferring those that require medical care from the islands to the mainland, the lifeboat has transported expecting mothers to Oban on a number of occasions. Four babies have been born onboard Oban lifeboat over the years and DM has been present for the birth of two of those.
He recalls “Assisting at the birth of two babies has to be the highlight of my time as a volunteer crew member.”
Asked what he will miss most, DM said “I’ll miss the camaraderie and team spirit that is so special and vital to what we do. It’s been a very humbling experience and I feel honoured to have been a part of it.”
“I want to thank the RNLI for the excellent training. I also want to thank my wife Ann, my support vessel and all of the partners of crew members. Their support and encouragement is invaluable to the crew.”
Fellow crew member and deputy coxswain Finlo Cottier reflected on DM’s time on the lifeboat, “He will be missed on the boat and at the station. Totally dependable as a crew member, deputy mechanic and assistant midwife. Unflappable.”
Not only has DM served as a dedicated volunteer crew member and deputy mechanic, but he has also acquired the role of ‘chef’ within the station; catering for many social events and celebrations over the years. And, he has inspired new volunteer crew members to join too.
Kevin Lockhart said “DM was the person I first asked about getting on the crew and he encouraged me to go down to the station and enquire. Sad to hear, but cheers for everything; for the training, the tea and coffee and the chocolate on board.”
Gillies Pagan said “Same as Kevin, it was DM I went to speak to when I was thinking of joining the crew. I thought to myself, if the folks on the crew are all like him, they must be a good bunch!”
We’d like to say thank you to DM, from all of us at Oban Lifeboat Station. His presence onboard the lifeboat will be missed, but his place within our lifeboat family remains and we hope to see him carry on his involvement with the station in a different capacity.
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.