Thirty years of Saving Lives at Sea for Portree RNLI
Portree RNLI will celebrate 30 years of service on Tuesday (9 March). During this time, the volunteer crew on the Isle of Skye have launched their lifeboat to those in need 520 times, helped 462 people and saved 18 lives.
The RNLI station opened with the arrival of a relief Waveney class lifeboat, delivered on 9 March 1991. Later that year, Portree took charge of their very own lifeboat, Ralph and Joy Swann.
In 1996, the aging Waveney was replaced by the more modern, and current serving, Trent class all-weather lifeboat, Stanley Watson Barker. At double the power and range of its predecessor, this lifeboat has helped the RNLI save lives and make a real difference on the waters in and around Skye.
30 years on, two of the original volunteers from 1991 remain as seagoing crew today. Hamish Corrigall and John Nicolson have progressed to their current capacity of Coxswain and Mechanic respectively.
Hamish is the fourth Coxswain to serve in Portree, having held the position since 2014. The previous 18 years he spent as second Coxswain. John, or ‘Clanky’ as he is more fondly known, became the station mechanic in 1999 where he has worked full-time ever since.
There is a real family feeling throughout the station in Portree, and Hamish is not the only Corrigall associated with Portree Lifeboat. His Aunt Chrissie, Uncle Tommy and Father Alfie were instrumental in the opening of a lifeboat station on the Island. As fishermen, Tommy and Alfie were regularly tasked by the UK Coastguard to attend vessels before the days of the lifeboat.
The lifeboat isn’t the only thing to have changed in Portree. Back in 1991, the crew were alerted to a ‘shout’ by rocket maroons launched from the pier. Nowadays, the crew use pagers to notify them of a shout with the added ‘benefit’ of alerting their whole household to a tasking!
Looking back on their 30 years with the RNLI, John and Hamish said: ‘A lot has changed in terms of technology and paperwork, but the primary focus remains – to save lives - and we are proud to be a part of that.’
The spirit of the volunteers who’ve helped contribute to 30 years of lifesaving in Portree has been key, and both Hamish and John have cherished the opportunity to make friends as well as a difference. They said: ‘Being part of the crew is like being part of an extended family, you have to trust your crew with your life and we have a really tight-knit crew here.’
‘The nature of our roles mean that we’ve experienced the highs and unfortunately some lows, but we still take great pride in our contribution and hope to do so for as long as we can.’
Portree Lifeboat Operations Manager, John Ellis, is immensely proud to oversee the operation in Portree today. And while he concedes that 2020 was the most difficult yet in terms of public engagement, it was fantastic to see that community resilience was still there.
John said: ‘The station's history speaks for itself, we are a community station founded by the community and proud to serve that community. I am honoured to be part of the team here and the 520 launches, 462 people helped and 18 lives saved are testimony to the crew both past and present. Here is to the next 30 years and beyond!’
Notes to editors
- Interviews with Portree crew members are available 'virtually' by request
RNLI media contacts
For more information please telephone Iain Beaton, RNLI volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer on 07719 827336 or Iain_Beaton@rnli.org.uk or Martin Macnamara, Regional Media Officer on 07920 365929 or Martin_Macnamara@rnli.org.uk or contact the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789.
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.