Donate now

RNLI Volunteer’s Memorable Throw Immortalised on Canvas

Lifeboats News Release

Fraserburgh Lifeboat volunteer, John May, was intrigued to discover his likeness captured on canvas when a fellow crew member told him he had seen a painting of him on-line.

RNLI/Billy Watson

John May and painting
John was a member of the crew in August 2019 when Fraserburgh Lifeboat went to the
aid of a fishing boat which had lost power in what was described as, ‘horrendous seas’.

The call-out was featured in the BBC series, ‘Saving Lives at Sea’, in what proved to be
one of the programme’s most memorable episodes.

It definitely proved so for artist Ken Funnel who likes to paint pictures with a strong narrative.

Speaking of the inspiration behind his painting, Ken said:

‘I always look forward to Saving Lives at Sea and when I saw John and the rest of crew
in action in such a dangerous and perilous situation I was gripped by the drama and felt
I had to paint it.’

Ken gathered the information he needed on John’s stance, and position of the fishing
boat, from different parts of the video and planned alternative versions of the
composition until he was happy that it captured the sense of drama and excitement
he’d felt on viewing Saving Lives at Sea.

Fellow volunteer and lifeboat mechanic, Jason Flett, recalls the now famous shout:
‘As the lifeboat approached the disabled vessel in heavy seas the crew knew it was
going to be a tricky operation. Our Coxswain, Vic Sutherland, had to steer the lifeboat
close enough to the fishing boat so that John could throw a line across. Not easy in
surging seas when one minute the disabled boat is close and you’re looking down on it
and the next minute you’re looking up at it and its closer still. In a great display of
seamanship and teamwork Vic got the boat close enough for John to throw the line at
the critical moment and it was caught first time.’

John has since retired from the sea-going crew but remains at the station as a Deputy
Launch Authority, responsible for organising the launch of the lifeboat and liaising with
the Coastguard during rescues.

‘The painting is a great reminder of my time at sea volunteering with the RNLI’ said,
John, ‘I am very grateful to Ken for choosing it as his subject matter. I now own the
original which takes pride of place on the living room wall at home.’

As well as John the RNLI Fraserburgh Lifeboat crew who were on the shout were Coxswain Vic Sutherland, Mechanic Jason Flett, Andrew Lockhart, Lindsay Palmer and Martin Runcie.

Jason Flett operated the mast camera and Martin Runcie operated the helmet mounted camera which captured the great footage featured in the Saving Lives at Sea episode.

The rescue features in Saving Lives, Series 5, Episode 5 and is currently available on BBC iplayer, here:

RNLI/Billy Watson

Coxswain Vic Sutherland and John May with painting of John's throw

RNLI/Billy Watson

Fraserburgh Lifeboat Crew after Shout. Lindsay Palmer not in photo.

RNLI/Billy Watson

Fraserburgh Lifeboat Crew back at berth. Martin Runcie not in photo.

RNLI/Billy Watson

Fraerburgh Lifeboat on its way to the shout.

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.