Obituary: Buckie Lifeboat crew pay tribute to their late coxswain, Jake Murray

Lifeboats News Release

The RNLI’s Buckie Lifeboat Station joined the Murray family and wider Buckie community on Saturday 13 November to pay their respects to John ‘Jake’ Murray who, for 20 years between 1987 and 2006, led generations of the town’s lifeboat crews with distinction in his role as full-time coxswain.

Jake Murray (left) led the crew which brought Buckie’s current Severn class lifeboat, RNLB William Blannin, to her new home in the town

RNLI Buckie

Jake Murray (left) led the crew which brought Buckie’s current Severn class lifeboat, RNLB William Blannin, to her new home in the town

Crewmembers past and present formed pall-bearer parties at the church and graveside and, as the funeral cortege passed the lifeboat station, crew formed an honour guard lining the route as the town’s Severn class lifeboat, RNLB William Blannin, sounded a single long blast on her horn in mournful salute to her former coxswain.

John Charles ‘Jake’ Murray was born in Buckie on 30th January 1951 to parents George and Margaret Murray. In his early career, he went to sea as a trawlerman, principally working out of Buckie and other northeast harbours.

In 1986 he joined RNLI Buckie Lifeboat as a volunteer crewmember, bringing all his knowledge of the sea – and particularly of local waters – to his role with Buckie Lifeboat. He made rapid progress and, in 1987, was appointed full-time coxswain of the lifeboat station.

One crewmate of more than 25 years’ standing said of Jake: “The man had an aura that inspired confidence and trust. He had a lifetime of experience and could read the sea like few others; I would have sailed into a hurricane with him if he asked me. He took care of his crews and they were intensely loyal to him in return.”

Coxswain Murray’s deep knowledge of the sea enabled to take his boat where few others would have gone and, in doing so, to win recognition and respect for the Station and for his crew.

In 1987, during the first of two rescues which received formal ‘thanks on vellum’ from the RNLI nationally, Jake Murray and his crew escorted the yacht Samphire back to Buckie in a 3-hour service which was to be the first of two that day, undertaken in a rising east-south-easterly gale. After three hours on service to the Samphire, the lifeboat was almost immediately tasked back to sea to assist the yacht Monsun of Ekero, reported to be drifting seven miles northwest of Burghead with machinery failure and rigging problems.

In building seas, poor visibility and persistent squally rain, the lifeboat eventually passed a tow line and began a difficult, slow tow to Burghead. The lifeboat eventually returned to her berth after nine hours on service and, in recognition of the two rescues, the ‘thanks on vellum’ was awarded.

Even more dramatically, in the early hours of 17 August 1991, the fishing vessel Fidelity issued a Mayday call that she was aground on the Muck Rocks which guard Buckie harbour less than one mile off.

Coxswain Murray immediately launched the lifeboat with a crew of volunteers and, within fifteen minutes, had found the Fidelity hard aground on the Middle Muck, her crew of three still aboard, listing and rolling some forty degrees to starboard and in imminent danger of capsize.

Recognising the urgency of the situation, but aware of the risk of grounding one of the lifeboat’s own propellors, Mr Murray made his approach to the casualty vessel, inching ahead using one engine only thereby protecting the other should it needed for a retreat. He placed the lifeboat alongside the Fidelity such that her crew could scramble over the bow and, by 3.25 am – less than an hour after the original alarm was raised – the casualties were safe ashore at the lifeboat station. This service undoubtedly represented three lives saved and led to the second ‘thanks on vellum’ awarded to lifeboats under Jake Murray’s command.

More recently, Jake Murray also led his crew in responding to the terrible flooding in Elgin and Lossiemouth in 2002, rescuing vulnerable people from their homes and delivering vital assistance to the community at that most difficult time.

Throughout his time as Coxswain of RNLI Buckie Lifeboat Station, Jake Murray always made time to bring on new generations of lifeboat crewmembers. To this day, the Station has a proud record of developing its own successor generations of coxswains to lead the town’s lifeboats into the future.

John ‘Jake’ Murray was a man, a seaman, and an outstanding coxswain of ‘the old school’. He died on 6 November 2011, aged 70 years. He leaves a wife, Morag, son Kevin and his wife Donna, son Malcolm, daughter Melanie and her husband Peter, together with four grandchildren and one great grandchild.

Retired, but still at the helm: one of the last photographs of Jake Murray, enjoying a boating holiday in Scotland in 2020

Photo courtesy of the Murray family

Retired, but still at the helm: one of the last photographs of Jake Murray, enjoying a boating holiday in Scotland in 2020

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.

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