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Launching in All Lathers! Our RNLI Volunteers Drop Everything to Answer the Call

Lifeboats News Release

Running out of the hairdressers still covered in shampoo, leaving a date in a restaurant, getting a lift from puzzled police officers … RNLI lifeboat crews drop everything when the pager goes off.

Crew member Iain Beaton dashed from the hairdresser's mid shampoo

Iain Beaton

Crew member Iain Beaton dashed from the hairdresser's mid shampoo

Last summer, our Scottish volunteers launched 463 times, aiding 376 people and saving 23 lives, with one third of those launches happening in the hours of darkness.

For some it has meant missing a child’s first birthday party, while others have cut short sporting events. Whatever the occasion, the pager going off to signal someone is in trouble means interrupting some of life’s major milestones.

But our volunteers are always there – and sometimes that ‘pager moment’ brings a little comedy to the serious task of getting to the lifeboat station.

Mayday is the international distress call for immediate help and therefore an appropriate name for our spring appeal.

Our volunteer crews answer the call – and as you’ll read below in whatever the circumstances – but this spring they are asking for your help. Will you ‘answer the call’ and help fund our lifesaving work?

Let’s Be ‘Aving Crew!

The sight of a man frantically dashing from a pub, chased closely behind by two others could only mean one thing to watching police officers … someone was in trouble.

What the police didn’t know was that Oban lifeboat volunteers David, Finlo and Ian had just sat down with their drinks when their pagers sounded. Finlo was out the door first, with David and Ian hot on his heels.

Thinking Finlo was being chased the police stepped in and offered him safe harbour in their van. They got their first shock when he asked them to give him a lift to the lifeboat station – and another when David and Ian jumped in too!

David recalls: “We’d barely taken a sip from our freshly ordered ‘orange juice’ when the pagers went off. Finlo was still wearing his jacket so ran out of the pub. Ian and I had to get our jackets off hooks under the bar then ran out after him.

“The police were sat quietly round the corner and they saw one guy running out of the pub as fast as he could, then a few seconds later, two guys chasing him.

“The police shot off down the street, overtaking us to ‘save’ Finlo by getting him into their van. We just thought he’d arranged a lift so Ian and I piled into the back as well. But the police hadn’t realised we were all crew and thought they’d made the easiest arrest ever! We had to convince them by showing our pagers and they promptly drove us to the station.

“When we arrived at the station Lorne, the duty coxswain, said: ‘I don’t want to know, just get on the boat!’

“Seriously though, Finlo is a whippet, we’d never have caught up with him otherwise.”

That’s Scrum State You’re In!

Given a pager can go off at any time of day or night, crew appearing at the station in “interesting” clothing is not a rarity but when volunteer Jacqui turned up to Lerwick station for a shout her appearance definitely raised some eyebrows.

Shoeless and covered head to toe in dirt, Jacqui certainly had some explaining to do.

As captain of Shetland Women’s Rugby Team she’d just won a league cup match against Inverness when the pager went off and there was no time to get changed.

A Meal For Run!

RNLI spouses and partners are perhaps some of the most patient and forgiving people on the planet. When we say our crew drop everything to sprint off at a moment’s notice we mean it.

Ian and his wife were halfway through a meal to celebrate their anniversary when his pager went off. Then a helm at North Berwick, East Lothian, Ian dashed off, not realising he had left her with no means to pay or a key to get back in the house.

Ian said: “I only realised when I got to the station and my wallet was in my pocket. I was away for about an hour and returned to the restaurant to find my wife talking to the waiting staff, who were fortunately very understanding.

“I’d describe her reaction as resigned – as it wasn’t the first time I’d run off and left her!”

Wash and Go!

Our lifeboats famously launch in all weathers – but thanks to the antics of Iain in Portree we can now say we launch in all lathers!

Poor Iain was enjoying that post-lockdown highlight, a trip to the hairdresser, when his pager sounded the alarm. With a shocked hairdresser and a head full of shampoo, he sprinted for the door and spent the next few hours with a very foamy helmet!

Next time he’ll just ask for a ‘shampoo and wet’!

Record ‘Brakers’!

Bikes and lifeboat shouts seem to be a recurring theme. Hugo, from Mallaig, managed a super speedy response to a shout when his pager went off halfway through a training cycle.

Picking up the pace he responded in record time.

His transition from bike to boat was decidedly smoother than one unlucky volunteer in Lerwick. Racing to the station on his two wheels, it was only on the descent of the steep hill towards the station that he realised his bike’s brakes had failed. The lifeboat station’s walls did provide him with something to arrest his descent but luckily he was none the worse for wear and still able to attend the shout!

No Snooze is Good News!

It’s always a rude awakening when a pager blares out in the middle of the night, suddenly interrupting your sleep but spare a thought for one crew member from Shetland who responded to their pager in the small hours, turning up at the station only to discover theirs had malfunctioned and while there was no emergency it did mean that there was no one needing urgent assistance.

Hopefully these stories of ‘pager moments’ and unfortunate crew have given you a bit of a lockdown lift! If they’ve raised a smile and you want to know how you can help the RNLI and ‘answer the call’ yourself then don’t worry, it doesn’t need to involve Lycra or disastrous haircuts just head to and find out how to make a donation or hold a socially-distanced sponsored event.

RNLI media contacts

For more information please contact Gemma McDonald – RNLI Media Manager for Scotland [email protected] 07826 900639

Three crew run to a shout

RNLI/Nathan Williams

Three crew run to a shout
Oban RNLI answer a call


Oban RNLI answer a call
RNLI pager


RNLI pager
Jacqui Murray in her RNLI kit with the Shetland Women's Rugby Team

RNLI/Nigel Millard

Jacqui Murray in her RNLI kit with the Shetland Women's Rugby Team

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.

Learn more about the RNLI

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.