Oban RNLI celebrates International Women’s Day
On International Women’s Day (Monday 8 March) Oban Lifeboat is celebrating the many women who play a part in saving lives at sea.
Last year Oban RNLI welcomed their third woman onboard the lifeboat as Jasmin Manning joined existing crew members Lawrie McMillan and Leonie Mead. Originally from Oban, 28 year old Jasmin studies Marine Science at the Scottish Association of Marine Science, while working part time for Marks and Spencer in the town.
Asked why she wanted to volunteer for the lifeboat, Jasmin said “I spend a lot of time on or near the water and joining the lifeboat felt like a good way to develop my skills and help others.”
Jasmin also volunteers for the Marine Conservation Society, helping with beach cleans and education. Although Jasmin’s crew training has been delayed due to Covid restrictions, we hope she’ll be able to join us afloat soon.
She said “I’m excited to get going when I can. I’m looking forward to learning lots and meeting the rest of the crew.”
Lawrie McMillan, 26, first joined the RNLI in 2013 as a volunteer onboard Stranraer’s inshore lifeboat. She then joined Portpatrick lifeboat, before moving to Oban and transferring to our crew in 2019. Not only does Lawrie volunteer onboard our lifeboat, but she also works at sea too, as a food and beverage senior for Stena Line. Her partner Ally, is our full time coxswain.
During her time as a volunteer crew member so far, Lawrie has responded to nearly 60 call outs, spending 100 hours at sea.
Recalling one of her more memorable call outs, Lawrie said “As crew for Portpatrick lifeboat, we were tasked to search for a missing person off the Mull of Galloway, but the fog was so thick you couldn’t even see the bow of the lifeboat. We were totally and utterly reliant on our navigation skills and the search and rescue equipment we have onboard the lifeboat to enable us to conduct a safe and effective search. Thankfully, those involved were found safe.”
Leonie, 30, has been a volunteer press officer for Oban lifeboat since 2014 and she also joined as a crew member in 2017. Leonie, who runs her own graphic design business, is also a qualified sea kayaking instructor and often goes to sea leaving her husband and fellow crew member Andrew Mead, ashore.
Leonie said “I love volunteering for the RNLI, both as a crew member and ashore as press officer. Both roles are rewarding in completely different ways but they share the same aim; to help save lives at sea. ”
“It’s not always easy to juggle volunteering alongside work and other commitments, but I wouldn’t change it. I always know that when I step onboard the lifeboat, we’ll be working as a team and there’s huge satisfaction and a sense of achievement in knowing that we’ll have done our best to help someone else, when they needed it most.”
So far, Leonie has responded to 89 call outs onboard the lifeboat and last year she spent nearly 60 hours at sea, covering over 300 miles.
There are many more women volunteers working behind the scenes, too. Peigi Robertson is one of the stations volunteer fundraisers and she has been dedicating her time to the RNLI’s fundraising branch in Oban for over 50 years. Recently, her contribution was recognised by the RNLI with a gold medal for her continued commitment.
Leonie continued “There’s the wives, partners and family members of our volunteer crew, too. They also drop everything and change plans at a minutes notice when the pagers sound.”
Karen Scott is one of them and she has been supporting her family members onboard Oban lifeboat for many years as two generations of her family are volunteers. Her husband Mark Scott has been a crew member for nearly 20 years, he’s also one of our deputy coxswains and her son Andrew Scott is our youngest crew member, joining at the age of 17 in 2014.
Karen said “I worry about both of them when their pagers go off, sometimes going to sea in awful weather, but it was definitely different when Andrew joined. He’s my son and I do worry about him more than Mark; he’ll always be my baby.”
"But, I know they all look after each other on the lifeboat and I’m very proud of them both. You get used to waiting for them to come home, but the worry never really goes away. I’ve also been abandoned on numerous occasions, usually with the shopping, when their pagers have gone off!”
Aside from her lifeboat family, Karen has been serving the local community as a key worker herself throughout the ongoing pandemic. For 30 years she has worked in nursing and at the moment, she’s helping with the administration of the COVID19 vaccination programme here in Oban.
Mark said “Not only does Karen support Andrew and I in our voluntary roles onboard the lifeboat, but she’s gone above and beyond over the last year with her work, too. Looking after families and working on the frontline as a community nurse. She’s my hero.”
Leonie said “By sharing our stories and celebrating the women of our lifeboat station, we hope others will be inspired to join us.”
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.