The funeral was held in Stromness last week of Michael Flett, former volunteer crewman and coxswain of Stromness lifeboat.
Mike joined the crew in 1960 and served as second coxswain before being made coxswain in 1992 until 1998. Michael was that traditional sort of lifeboatman who came to the role after having learned about the sea as a fisherman.
He had an intimate knowledge of the tides, shoals, rocks and reefs around Stromness and one of his great strengths was passing this knowledge on to other crew members. Knowing just how far you can push the boat into a tight spot is priceless knowledge for a lifeboat coxswain since casualties are, by their very nature, often in just such a tight spot.
In his working life Mike had a series of fishing boats and creel boats and was well known in several Scottish ports where he landed his catch. He was always welcome as a visitor wherever he tied up and was well-liked on the quay sides. Mike was a character with a great sense of humour, quick to smile and slow to take offence. He spoke well of everyone, always ready to help he will be sorely missed around the town of Stromness.
It speaks volumes that within a few hours of the news of his death the Stromness lifeboat Facebook page was flooded with condolences for Mike's family and expressions of love for the man, as well as appreciation of his service to the community. I have tried to reflect everything that was said but one judgement stands out: Mike was a gentleman.
'Not all heroes wear capes' someone said. Lifeboat crews do not consider themselves heroes but we know better. We know how we feel about the men and women who turn out, often in the dark and in foul weather, when other boats are hurrying for shelter. They go, always at great personal inconvenience and at no little risk to themselves on occasions. 'It's just what we do' they say, but it's much more than that.
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.