RNLI volunteers recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours

Lifeboats News Release

RNLI staff members and volunteers have been recognised for their vital role in helping the charity save lives at sea through the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

RNLI/Mark Regan

John Stobbart is Coxswain at the RNLI Workington Lifeboat Station.

A volunteer lifeboat crew member, a volunteer Lifeboat Operations Manager, a former director, a fundraising volunteer and a volunteer committed to sharing vital water safety advice are among nine RNLI recipients who have all been recognised for their incredible contribution to the charity.

The birthday honours, which are usually announced in June, have been delayed this year due to the pandemic.

RNLI Chief Executive, Mark Dowie said: ‘It is such a delight to see these RNLI people recognised for their hard work and commitment, particularly as we have had such a challenging year.

‘Those who have been named in this year’s Birthday Honours truly represent the RNLI values through their dedication, support and courage. On behalf of everyone at the RNLI, I send my heartfelt congratulations and gratitude to all those who have been recognised.’

George Rawlinson, former RNLI Operations and Safety Director and current volunteer chair of the UK’s National Water Safety Forum, has committed to over 29 years of lifesaving with the RNLI along with UK and Ireland Search and Rescue. He has been awarded with a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his services.

After serving as a professional master mariner in the British Merchant Navy, George decided to join the RNLI as the charity’s mission to save lives at sea profoundly resonated with him.

George’s inspirational leadership was the driving force behind the UK’s first National Drowning Prevention Strategy in 2016 which was subsequently adopted by the Government. The strategy served as the foundation of many city, inland and coastal water safety forums. Since then, the UK’s drowning rate has steadily reduced.

During his years with the RNLI, he focussed on the leadership, planning and delivery of a modern, safe, and effective lifeboat, lifeguard, flood rescue and water safety service. He always strived to improve the support given to volunteers and staff on the front line, so the RNLI and its lifesaving aims could thrive.

He said: ‘While I feel proud to be recognised, this is about all of us. It takes supreme effort to ensure a lifeboat can launch, for a lifeguard unit to operate and a fundraising branch to raise money. That is only possible because of the commitment of all our volunteers, generous donors, supporters, staff and their families who support them.'

Scarborough RNLI fundraiser and founder of the Andrew McGeown Legacy Fund, Donna Loveland, has been involved with the RNLI for many years. She has been awarded with a BEM.

In February 2015 Andrew McGeown, aged 32, lost his life after entering the North Sea in Scarborough’s South Bay whilst attempting to save his dog, Arnold. Donna set up the Andrew McGeown Legacy Fund in his name, with the intention of funding the Swim Safe programme in her local area.

Swim Safe was created by Swim England and the RNLI in 2013 to help children aged 7–14 stay safe while enjoying swimming outdoors through practical sessions offering vital water safety skills, free of charge. From a single scheme in Cornwall, Swim Safe has grown into a national programme spanning 30 sites across the UK and helping thousands of children learn how to stay safe in the water.

Swim Safe was established in Scarborough in 2015. Since then, more than 4,500 children have taken part in sessions at Scarborough and Bridlington. Donna’s tireless dedication has seen her raise over £45,000 for the Andrew McGeown Legacy Fund and Swim Safe whilst also promoting water safety and the dangers of the coast.

Upon hearing the news of the success of her nomination, Donna said: ‘It was a real shock, but also a nice surprise that I will be receiving the British Empire Medal. Fundraising in my brother’s memory has given my family a positive focus after Andrew’s death.

‘The Swim Safe programme has been very successful. It’s a pleasure to be able to deliver such a valuable programme, and hopefully we will save many lives through the educational sessions. Andrew will always be remembered and loved thanks to the great legacy created with RNLI and Swim England and everyone who has supported us.’

Helen McHugh, retired RNLI staff member and volunteer at Poole, has been working with the RNLI for over 30 years. She has been recognised with a British Empire Medal (BEM) for her services.

Helen started at the RNLI as a member of staff in October 1989 and following her retirement in 2009, she continued as a volunteer as she was passionate about the ‘RNLI family’.

Her main commitments include the annual RNLI Carol Service, two annual retired RNLI staff lunches, as well as organising a group of volunteers to attend two Royal garden parties each year at Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Helen has facilitated at least 20 of these events that take hours of work.

Commenting on her award, Helen said: ‘I was stunned, humbled and honoured to be awarded a BEM, something I never imagined would happen. I have been privileged to meet many volunteers and staff from literally all areas of the RNLI who have put their heart and soul into serving and it is this that keeps me volunteering.’

Geoffrey Cowan, Community Safety Officer, has volunteered for over 45 years at Cullercoats station. He has received a British Empire Medal (BEM) for his commitment.

Geoffrey is a well-known and dedicated volunteer in the north-east, helping share water safety messaging with his local community and working on the prevention of incidents in the water.

During his 45 years with the RNLI, Geoffrey has taken on many different roles, including being part of the crew at Tynemouth Lifeboat Station. His experience on the lifeboat gave him the inspiration to become one of the RNLI’s most dedicated water safety ambassadors.

Geoffrey started the locker initiative that helped to encourage commercial fishermen to wear lifejackets when climbing between boats from the dockside, following the tragic deaths of two fishermen. The lockers now enable local fishermen to store their lifejackets on the dock, so they are readily available.

Commenting on his award, Geoffrey said: ‘I am absolutely delighted to have been included in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. The RNLI has undergone massive changes since I joined in 1973, and I remain proud of the lifesaving work the charity continues to do. I am excited to carry on the work I’ve undertaken over the last 47 years, helping the local community to have a better understanding of water safety so that we can continue to save lives at sea.’

Coxswain at Workington Lifeboat Station, John Stobbart, has seen his commitment as a volunteer span over 32 years. John has been awarded with a British Empire Medal (BEM).

John qualified as a lifeboat crew member back in 1987 and quickly rose through the ranks to his appointment as Coxswain in 1994. During this time, he has received several awards including the RNLI’s Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum. He is a well-respected role model and coxswain for the young men and women who serve on the lifeboat at Workington.

In 2017, John received the RNLI’s ‘Excellence in Volunteering’ award for his superlative efforts in support of a local appeal to raise funds for the station. He was a steering force in raising over £150,000 to purchase a new lifeboat.

In the local community, John has won huge respect for his support of local charitable ventures, including a hostel for homeless people, facilities for disabled young people and the renovation of an amateur theatre, amongst others.

Lifeboat Operations Manager for Workington Lifeboat Station, Tim Chittenden, said: ‘John unfailingly demonstrates great moral and physical courage in the face of adversity, selfless dedication to duty, exceptional leadership and fine seamanship.’

Stewart Auld, has dedicated over 50 years to the charity and has contributed to saving lives at sea in a variety of roles at North Berwick Lifeboat Station and has been awarded with a British Empire Medal (BEM).

Joining as a volunteer crew member in 1967, Alexander progressed onto other roles such as Deputy Launch Authority, Lifeboat Operations Manager and in the latter years Chairman of the Lifeboat Management.

Audrey Wood, RNLI Fundraiser, has raised over £235,000 for RNLI lifeboat stations on the North East coast of Scotland and has been awarded with a British Empire Medal (BEM).

Since the tragic loss of her son Stuart ‘Woody’ Wood in the North Sea in 2009, from the helicopter, Flight 85N, Mrs Audrey Wood has raised over £235,000 for RNLI lifeboat stations on the North East Coast of Scotland. Mrs Wood’s donations have included the purchase of Aberdeen RNLI’s newest D-class in-shore lifeboat, named The Buoy Woody – 85N in Stuart’s memory and the memory of the other 15 men lost in the tragedy.

Anne Scott, the RNLI’s Community Manager for north east Scotland says: ‘Audrey Wood is a fundraising phenomenon in Aberdeen. Every year, outside of 2020, she stages a sparkling sell-out event which makes people aware of the lifesaving work our volunteer crews do – and that none of this work could happen were it not for the generosity of members of the public. The RNLI is hugely grateful to Audrey.’

Alan Forrester, volunteer Lifeboat Operations Manager at Flint RNLI, has been awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) in recognition of his charity work on the North Wales coast after dedicating 50 years to saving lives at sea.

Alan joined Flint RNLI as shore crew when he was only 17 years old, shortly followed to crew then helm in 1974. After retiring from crew duties Alan became the station’s Honourable Secretary, followed by the responsibility of Flint Lifeboat Operations Manager, a key role that he continues to carry out with great pride to this day.

Throughout his time at the station Alan has been an avid fundraiser for the charity. As a former Chair of the local RNLI fundraising branch, he knows the importance of raising funds so the crew can continue their lifesaving work.

After hearing of his award, Alan said: ’I am grateful and humbled to receive this award, but I am accepting this on behalf of us all at Flint RNLI – this is a recognition for the whole team who continue to work tirelessly to support our local community. We are all one team at Flint lifeboat station and will always support each other. However, my biggest support throughout the years has been from my wife, Mary. Without her continued support I wouldn’t have been able to achieve half of what I’ve done and because of that I’ll always be grateful.’

John Coyle, from county Galway on the west coast of Ireland is to receive an Officers of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). A former Trustee of the RNLI and Chair of the RNLI’s Council in Ireland, John has been to the forefront of lifesaving on the island of Ireland.

His relationship with the RNLI was a result of a lifelong interest in yachting and began with him fundraising for lifeboats on the west coast of Ireland before joining the Irish Council of the RNLI, which covers the entire island. John was then invited to join the UK Council of The RNLI before becoming a Trustee. His direct involvement with the RNLI spans some thirty-five years and continues to this day.

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Donna Loveland at the Scarborough RNLI Lifeboat Station with her Excellence in Volunteering award.


Awardee, Helen McHugh, has devoted years to the 'RNLI family'.


Geoffrey Cowan has been a volunteer at Cullercoats RNLI Lifeboat Station for over 45 years.


John Coyle receives an OBE and his work with the RNLI spans over 35 years


George Rawlinson has been part of the RNLI for over 29 years.

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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